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1 

THE USSR ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 

THE INSTITUTE OF WORLD ECONOMY AND 
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 











The International 
Working-Class Movement 


PROBLEMS 
OF HISTORY 
AND THEORY 


In seven volumes 


Introduction by Academician 
B.N. PONOMAREV 


PROGRESS PUBLISHERS 






The International 
Working-Class Movement 


PROBLEMS 
OF HISTORY 
AND THEORY 


Volume 6 


THE WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT 
IN THE DEVELOPED 
CAPITALIST COUNTRIES 
AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR 
( 1945 - 1979 ) 


FTnl 


PROGRESS PUBLISHERS MOSCOW 





Translated form the Russian 
Designed by Vladimir Yeryomin 


MeJKflyHapo^Hoe paSouee ABHuceHne 
Bonpocu HCTopnH h Teopini 
B CEMH TOMAX 

Tom mecToS 

PAEO^EE ABHJKEHHE PA3BHTEIX KAIIHTAJIHCTHHECKHX CTPAH 
nOCJIE BTOPOH MHPOBOH BO0HH (1945-1979) 

Ha amAuiicKOM n,3bine 


The General Editorial Committee: 

B. N. Ponomarev, Chairman, T. T. Timofeyev, Deputy Chairman, 

|A. I. SobolevJ Deputy Chairman, 0. T. Bogomolov, A. S. Chernvaev, 
G. G. Diligensky, P. N. Fedoseyev, A. A. Galkin, Y. M. Garushyants, 
S. S. Khromov, G. F. Kim, A. L. Narochnitsky, IS, S. Salychev,] 
A. N. Shlepakov, Y. B. Smeral, M. I. Sladkovsky, V. M. Vodolagin, 
V. V. Volsky, V. V. Zagladin, |Y. M. Zhukov| 


© H3AaTeitbCTB0 «Mwcjin», 1981 
English translation © Progress Publishers 1987 
Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 


0302030102—091 
M 014(01)—87 18—86 


014(01)—87 




THE INTERNATIONAL 
WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT 


PROBLEMS OF HISTORY 
AND THEORY 


VOLUME 6 


THE EDITORIAL BOARD: 

N. N. Inozemtsev, | Editor-in-Chief 
A. S. Chernyaev 
G. G. Diligensky 
I. Y. Guryev 
K. G. Kholodkovsky 









Co-chairmen of the team of authors: 


G. G. Diligensky, D. Sc. (Hist.), K. G. Kholodkovsky, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), 

S. P. Peregudov, D. Sc. (Hist.) 


CONTRIBUTORS: 


F. E. BURDZHALOV, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

G. G. DILIGENSKY, D. Sc. (Hist.) 

Y. M. GARUSHYANTS, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
N. D. GAUZNER, D. Sc. (Econ.) 

I. E. GORODETSKAYA, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
N. P. IVANOV, D. Sc. (Econ.) 

V. P. IYERUSALIMSKY, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
V. N. KHLYNOV, D. Sc. (Econ.) 

K. G. KHOLODKOVSKY, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
Kh. Kh. KOBO 


N. A. KOSOLAPOV, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
I. M. KRIVOGUZ, D. Sc. (Hist.) 

V. V. KULESHOVA, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
I. B. LEVIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

V. V. LYUBIMOVA, D. Sc. (Econ.) 

K. L. MAIDANIK, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

S. N. NADEL, D. Sc. (Econ.) 

S. P. PEREGUDOV, D. Sc. (Hist.) 

V. V. PESCHANSKY, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

S. L. SOKOLSKY, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

T. V. SOLYUS, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 


INDIVIDUAL CHAPTERS WERE WRITTEN BY: 


V. I. BORISYUK, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

I. M. BUNIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

K. S. GADZHIYEV, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
I. V. GRISHIN, Cand. Sc. (Econ.) 

A. G. IVAKHNIK 

A. M. KARABASHKIN 

I. A. LEBEDEV, D. Sc. (Hist.) 


E. E. MILANOVA 

A. S. POKH, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

G. V. ROGOVA 

A. A. SHLIKHTER, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

L. I. SOLOVYEVA, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
G. I. VAINSTEIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
E. I. YAROPOLOV, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 


IN THE PREPARATION OF THE VOLUME, MATERIALS BY 
THE FOLLOWING RESEARCHERS HAVE BEEN USED: 


V. P. ANDROSOV, D. Sc. (Hist.) 

V. S. BOYTSOV, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

V. N. DAKHIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

L. I. IOVCHUK 

V. V. KONAKHIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

M. I. LAPITSKY, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 

L. A. MOROZOVA 


N. V. NAZAROVA 
E. I. PAVLICHUK 
I. M. PIROGOVA, Cand. Sc. (Econ.) 
N. S. PLEVAKO 

V. Ya. SHVEITSER, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) 
V. A. SKOROKHODOV 
V. V. TOKAREV 


STATISTICS WERE PREPARED BY 
Z. M. PASHETKINA, CAND. SC. (ECON.) 


The volume covers the problems of the development of the labour and 
democratic movements in the developed capitalist countries, traces the spread 
of the influence of Marxism the world over, shows the growing role played 
by the working class and its organisations, and describes the changes in 
their strategic and tactical guidelines. Special attention is devoted to the im¬ 
pact of the world socialit system and its policy of peaceful coexistence on 
the revolutionary and democratic movements in the developed capitalist 
countries. 






CONTENTS 


INTRODUCTION 

11 

Part One 

THE LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES 
IN THE EARLY POST-WAR YEARS (1945-1955) 

25 

Chapter 1 

The Outcome of the Second World War and the Labour Movement 
in Developed Capitalist Countries (1945-1947) 

27 

A New International Situation and Prospects for the Working-Class Struggle 
Problems of the Post-War Labour Movement 

39 

The Communist Parties’ Effort Towards Radical Democratic 
Transformation: Results Achieved in the Early Post-War Years 

49 

Chapter 2 

The Working-Class Movement and the Cold War 
(the Late 1940s and the First Half of the 1950s) 

61 

The Beginning of the Cold War and the Growing Complexity 
of the International Conditions of the Working-Class Struggle 

61 

The Left-Wing Forces and the Workers’ Struggle in France, Italy and Japan 

68 

The Labour Movement in Other Developed Capitalist Countries 

83 

The Peculiarities of the Labour Movement in the Late 40s 
and the First Half of the 50s 
103 

Growing Ideological and Organisational Delimitation 
in the International Labour Movement 
111 

Part Two 

THE WORKING CLASS iN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES AGAINST THE BACKGROUND 
OF THE ADVANCE OF THE FORCES OF SOCIALISM AND DEEPENING 
CONTRADICTIONS OF CAPITALISM 

123 

Chapter 3 

Changes on the International and Home Fronts 
of the Working-Class Struggle 
125 

The International Situation in 1955-1980 
125 

The Technological Revolution, State-Monopoly Capitalism 
and the Working Class 
142 








Chapter 4 

The Social Development of the Working Class 

160 

The Working Class and Its Role in the Development of Productive Forces 

160 

The Industrial Proletariat 
168 

Foreign Workers 
181 

The Agricultural Proletariat 
187 

Proletarian Detachments of Office Workers 

189 

Semi-Proletarian and Transitional Strata. 

The Working Class and the Intelligentsia 
197 

Chapter 5 

The Economic Position of the Working Class 

203 

Unemployment 

204 
Wages 

211 

Working-Class Consumption Patterns 
220 

Methods of Capitalist Exploitation and Working-Class Conditions 

226 

Chapter 6 

The Development of the Social Psychology of the Working Class 

235 

The Impact of the Post-War Socio-Political Situation 
on the Mass Consciousness of the Working Class 

236 

The Growing Anti-Monopolist and Anti-Capitali3t Trends 
in the Consciousness of the Working Class 

246 

Part Three 

LABOUR MOVEMENT UPSURGEflAND CAPITALISM’S WORSENING> GENERAL 

CRISIS 

261 

Chapter 7 

The Labour Movement and Capitalism’s Deepening Social Contradictions 

263 

Socio-Economic Issues of the Labour Movement 1950-1980 

264 

The (Working Class and Intensified Social and Political 
Contradictions of Capitalism 
273 







Chapter 8 

The Mass Labour Movement in the Late 1950s and Earlv 1960s 

295 

The Labour Movement Switches from Defence to Attack 

295 

Distinctive Features of the Labour Movement in Various Countries 

310 

Chapter 9 

Development of Working-Class Socio-Economic Struggle 
in the Late 1960s and the 1970s 

321 

Upsurge and New Features of the Mass Strike Movement 

321 

Enhanced Role of Trade Unions in Class Struggle 

348 

The Labour Movement Vis-A-Vis Growing Internationalisation of Capital 

397 

Chapter 10 

The Working-Class Struggle for Social Progress in the Main Capitalist States 

(Late 1960s-1970s) 

405 

The May 1968 Events in France and Struggle for Left Unity 

406 

Italian Working-Class Struggle for Democratic Change 

424 

Shifts in the British Labour Movement 
437 

The West German Labour Movement in the “Small Coalition” Period 

451 

The US Labour Movement During the Socio-Political Crisis 

461 

Worsening Class Contradictions in Japan 
470 

Chapter 11 

The Labour Movement and the Break-Up of Fascist Regimes 
in Western Europe (Greece, Portugal, Spain) 

483 

The Left-Wing Forces of Portugal in the Anti-Fascist Revolution 
and in the Struggle to Defend the Gains Made in that Revolution 

483 

Overthrow of the Military-Fascist Dictatorship in Greece 
and Activation of the Labour Movement 
507 

The'Working Class in Struggle to Eradicate Francoism 
and Democratise Their Country 

516 

Chapter 12 

Growing Political Activity of the Working Class in the Small Capitalist 
Countries of Western Europe, and in Canada, Australia and New Zealand 








536 

Activation of the Working-Class Movement in the Small 
Capitalist Countries of Western Europe 
536 

Activation of the Working Class in Australia, New Zealand and Canada 

564 

Basic Trends and Conflicts in the Development of the Working-Class 
Movement in the Smaller Countries of Western Europe, 
and in Australia, New Zealand and Canada 

578 


Part Four 

Political and Ideological Issues of the Working-Class Movement 

583 


Chapter 13 

Ideological and Political Evolution of Social Democracy During 
the New Stage of the General Crisis of Capitalism 

585 

The “Revisionism” of the Early 50s and Late 60s, 
and the Sharpening Party Infighting 

586 


The “Technocratic” Deviation by Reformist Leaders 
and Its Social and Political Consequences 
597 

Social Democracy and the Mounting Labour Movement 
in the Late 60s and Early 70s 
606 

The “Return of Ideology” in the Early 70s 

610 

Social Democracy and the Deepening General Crisis of Capitalism 

621 


Chapter 14 

Fight for Working-Class Political Unity in the Interests of Peace, 
Democracy and Social Progress 

628 

New International and National Conditions and the Problem of Unity 

628 

Strengthening of Unitarian Tendencies Within the Working-Class 
and Democratic Movement 
631 

The Communist Party Is the Decisive Force in the Fight 
for the Political Unity of the Working Class 

636 

Vital Issues of World Politics and the Social Democratic Movement 

649 

Co-operation Between Communists and Socialists in the Fight for Detente 

658 


CONCLUSION 

671 

Name Index 


INTRODUCTION 


The sixth volume of the present edition is devoted to the present 
stage of the international workers’ movement which, having started 
after the Second World War, is unfolding today. This period has 
been marked by large-scale class battles and world-wide history- 
making transformations. This is a period when the struggle be¬ 
tween capitalism and socialism, the system to supersede it, has ac¬ 
quired a new dimension. The working class has become the pivot 
of mankind’s social life. The world socialist system has emerged 
and consolidated. Its increasing influence upon the course of history 
is a highlight of modern times. 

The Great October Socialist Revolution, having cast away the 
shackles of imperialist domination, launched an irreversible process 
of limiting and reducing the sphere of action of capitalist laws, 
gave a powerful impetus to the peoples’ struggle for their liberation 
and eliminated the bourgeoisie’s monopoly of world politics. The 
emergence of the system of socialist states after the Second World 
War and its steadily growing might, reflected a further change in 
the balance of the two social systems’ forces and turned into the 
principal factor in the aggravation of the general crisis of capital¬ 
ism. One should be mindful of this factor in order to have a correct 
understanding of the changes that occurred in the international si¬ 
tuation in the post-war decades, of the peculiarities of the workers’ 
movement in capitalist countries, the processes by which ever new 
links in the chain of imperialist domination were broken and the 
course of the national liberation struggle. The second stage in the 
general crisis of capitalism which culminated in the consolidation 
of the world socialist system and the shrinkage of the domain of 
capitalist rule was followed since mid-1950s, by a third stage, ush¬ 
ered in by the strengthening of the positions of socialism. This 
stage provided new stimuli for profound social changes throughout 
the world. 









12 


INTRODUCTION 


In the early years of the Soviet state’s history, a mere 7.8 per 
cent of the world population lived on the territories where the cap¬ 
italist rule had been overthrown. In the mid-70s, the socialist 
countries accounted for one-third (32.1 per cent) of the globe’s 
population. The socialist countries, CMEA members, currently ac¬ 
count for nearly one-third of the world’s industrial output. Social¬ 
ism’s growing strength and successes in the building of a new so¬ 
ciety conduce to the further proliferation of socialist ideas and en¬ 
hance their attractiveness as the socialist future of the world’s peo¬ 
ples can now be visualised in concrete forms and the working peo¬ 
ple can borrow valuable experience on which to rely in their strug¬ 
gle. 

It is the country of victorious socialism that in the years of the 
Second World War saved mankind from the nazi barbarism and 
eliminated the horrendous threat to the gains of civilisation. The de¬ 
feat of nazism, which removed the most dangerous enemies of peace 
and progress from the political arena, caused a realignment of 
forces in the imperialist camp, changing both the international con¬ 
texts of the class struggle and the internal political climate in 
capitalist countries. 

The Soviet Union has convincingly shown to each and all that the 
new principles the October Revolution introduced in mankind’s life, 
specifically, in relations between nations, have acquired not only 
moral force but are also reliably supported by the economic, politi¬ 
cal and military might of the Soviet state and the monolithic unity 
of the Soviet people, the winner in the hard battle. The historical 
superiority of socialism has been unprecedentedly borne out by the 
Soviet Union’s victory over the misanthropic nazi military establish¬ 
ment which embodied the worst evils of capitalism. For this reas¬ 
on, the years following the defeat of nazism were, naturally, marked 
by a tremendous upsurge in the workers’ and democratic move¬ 
ment all over the world, by the growth of interest in and sympathy 
for the Soviet Union and the Communist parties, and by the new 
achievements gained by the working people in various areas of social 
life. 

The subsequent post-war development has been continuously in¬ 
fluenced by world socialism. The imperialists are compelled to take 
into account the bitter lessons of history and to give heed to the 
existence, strength and authority of the socialist countries. The at¬ 
tempts to “roll back” socialism or to paralyse it by acquiring mo¬ 
nopoly of atomic weapons led, in the long run, to ever new setbacks 
suffered by the imperialist policy. Each of the political setbacks 
was conducive to the working-class successes. 

The fact that the working people in European and many other 
countries have been able to live, work, and struggle in the condi- 



INTRODUCTION 


13 


tions of peace for four decades, can only be accounted for by the 
emergence and strengthening of the world socialist system, which 
diminished the effect of inherent capitalist laws and limited the 
sphere of their action. 

It was Karl Marx who indicated the direction in which the work¬ 
ing class might influence international relations. He pointed out 
that it ought “to vindicate the simple laws of morals and justice, 
which ought to govern the relations of private individuals, as the 
rules paramount of the intercourse of nations. 

“The fight for such a foreign policy forms part of the general 
struggle for the emancipation of the working classes.” 1 

The community of socialist countries has opposed the imperialist 
foreign policy by an entirely new type of international relations, 
based on the Leninist principles of the peaceful coexistence of 
countries with different social systems, mutual respect for other 
countries’ sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs 
of one another, on mutually beneficial cooperation among equal 
states and on fraternal mutual assistance of the peoples fighting for 
their liberation, peace and social progress. 

The continued change in the correlation of forces of the two op¬ 
posed social systems, the weakening of imperialism’s positions and 
the Soviet Union’s achievement of military parity with the United 
States of America have opened up new prospects for a radical re¬ 
structuring of international relations. It has been proved that world 
wars are not fatally unavoidable and prerequisites have been creat¬ 
ed to transfer from cold war by means of which imperialism tried, 
for many post-war years, to check the onslaught of the forces of 
social progress to international detente and peaceful coexistence 
among countries with different social systems. 

As was stressed in the report of the CC CPSU to the 26th CPSU 
Congress (1981), “it is absolutely obvious that today the Soviet 
Union and its allies are more than ever the chief buttress of world 
peace”. 2 

Thus, real socialism again, this time in the conditions of peace, 
has proved itself to be a consistently internationalist force making 
a decisive contribution to the creation of an international context 
propitious to the struggle for social progress. 

While the cold war contained the workers’ and democratic move¬ 
ment in capitalist countries, distracting the masses from the urgent 
problems and making it possible for the reactionary forces to play 

1 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, 
Vol. Two, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, p. 18. 

2 Documents and Resolutions. The 26th Congress of the Communist Party 
°f the Soviet Union, Novosty Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1981, 

p. 7. 








14 


INTRODUCTION 


up on nationalist and anti-communist prejudices, in the conditions 
of detente the workers’ and democratic movement became far less 
limited and much more vigorous in its efforts. The improvement of 
the international situation helped the working people in capitalist 
countries to learn more about the realities of the socialist world, 
to peel the cold war propaganda paint off the true image of social¬ 
ism and to have a clearer view of the perspectives opened up by 
far-reaching social transformations. The collapse of the surviving 
fascist regimes in Western Europe, the defeat suffered by the 
overt reactionary forces in the FRG, Italy and elsewhere, the 
leftward shift of the masses in the majority of West European 
countries and a great upsurge in the democratic movement in the 
United States—all these events of the late 1960s and 1970s would 
have hardly been possible in a context of acute international ten¬ 
sions. The Conference of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of 
Europe held in 1976 had every reason to state that peaceful coexis¬ 
tence had created “more favourable conditions of struggle for the 
movements for democratic and socialist transformation in the 
capitalist countries”. 1 

A fresh aggravation of the international situation caused by the 
machinations of the imperialist circles of the United States and oth¬ 
er countries at the turn of the 1980s calls for the concerted action 
of the entire international working class and all the peace-loving 
forces and sets the workers’ movement new, highly responsible 
tasks. It is vitally important to strive for the further consolidation 
of the positions of the working class as a class which has the great¬ 
est stake in preserving peace. 

In the last few decades the issue of the interrelationship between 
the struggle for peace and the struggle for social progress has be¬ 
come one of the main problems of the international labour move¬ 
ment. The Communists as front-rank working-class fighters have 
always opposed war as a means of resolving international problems. 
At the same time, the world wars unleashed by the imperialists, by 
seriously precipitating world-wide revolutionary crises, diminished 
imperialism’s role in world development and conduced to radical 
changes in the international situation. The new alignment of forces 
in the international arena and the development of weapons of 
mass destruction have had a serious effect on the situation. 

The struggle to avert the war danger and ensure peaceful coe¬ 
xistence has turned into a categorical imperative not only for the 
work towards social progress, but also for mankind’s very existence. 
The horrendous idea about the need to force revolution at the 


1 For Peace , Security, Cooperation and Social Progress in Europe. Berlin , 
June 29-30, 1976 , Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1976, p. 40. 










INTRODUCTION 


15 


cost of the lives of half of mankind has been repudiated by the in¬ 
ternational workers’ movement. At the same time, the tremendous 
growth of socialism and democracy and the weakening of the im¬ 
perialist camp have considerably broadened the possibilities of 
struggle for social progress in the context of peace. The grave so¬ 
cio-political crises ravaging the capitalist world and the popular 
anti-imperialist revolutions of the 1960s-1970s unfolded against the 
background of reduced international tensions. 

A far more concrete, everyday influence exerted by the realities 
of socialism triumphant in a considerable part of the world had be¬ 
come a decisive factor in creating more propitious conditions for the 
working-class struggle as compared to those obtaining in the period 
between the two world wars. The new society’s successes and social 
gains have determined the scope, the goals and the methods of the 
working-class struggle. The 25th CPSU Congress stressed that “al¬ 
ready today socialism exercises a tremendous influence on the think¬ 
ing and sentiment of hundreds of millions of people all over the 
world. It assures working people freedom, truly democratic rights, 
well-being, the broadest possible access to knowledge, and a firm 
sense of security. It brings peace, respect for the sovereignty of all 
countries and equal interstate co-operation, and is a pillar of sup¬ 
port to peoples fighting for their freedom and independence.” 1 

Fear of the revolutionising effect of the socialist example has 
been “a second nature” of the monopolistic ruling circles since the 
time of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Yet, never before 
have they been compelled to make equally serious concessions in 
an effort to forestall this revolutionising effect. The confrontation 
with socialism has played a top-priority role in the strategy and 
everyday policy of the monopolistic bourgeoisie. In the face of the 
social achievements gained by the working people in the Soviet 
Union and other countries of victorious socialism and under the 
growing pressure of the workers’ movement the ruling classes in the 
developed capitalist countries were forced to retreat, step by step, 
from their positions and abandon some of the most brutal forms of 
exploitation. 

The working people in capitalist countries do not fail to compare 
the situation at home, where “full employment” remains a myth, 
while the spectre of unemployment haunts the working-class quar¬ 
ters even in the years of economic boom, with the constantly grow¬ 
ing demand for labour force in the socialist countries. Similarly, 
the free access to education and science, large-scale housing con¬ 
struction, and a tremendous growth in the medical services network 


1 Documents and Resolutions. 25th Congress of the CPSU . Novosti Press 
Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1976, p. 13. 







16 


INTRODUCTION 


typical of socialist society stimulate the working people in capital¬ 
ist countries to urge the solution of the acute social problems fac¬ 
ing them. 

Never before has the working class scored such important ma¬ 
terial gains. The broad masses started to regard a steady rise in 
their living standard as their inalienable right. In this, they are lar¬ 
gely motivated by the very existence of socialism and by the his¬ 
toric competition between the two social systems. As a result of many 
years of struggle the working class has started to enjoy greater 
possibilities to organise itself, defend its interests, set itself more se¬ 
rious, far-reaching goals than mere subsistence and a higher living 
standard. 

Broad social and economic demands, i.e. intermediate goals stim¬ 
ulating the working class in its advancement, enhancing its in¬ 
fluence on political life in the period prior to overthrowing the cap¬ 
italist rule and in rallying around itself non-proletarian, middle 
strata of the population, has started to play, especially since the 
1970s, an important role in the workers’ movement. 

It goes without saying that the monopolistic bourgeoisie have 
learned much from the struggle between the two opposed social sys¬ 
tems. The strategy and tactics of the dominant class have modified 
and become more sophisticated as compared to the pre-war period 
as a result of the defeat of fascism, the consolidation of the forces 
of socialism and the accelerated transformation of monopoly cap¬ 
italism into state-monopoly capitalism. The bourgeoisie have relied 
more on combining direct pressure with “integrating” the working 
class in the state-monopoly capitalist establishment skilfully ca¬ 
mouflaged by democratic phraseology. And they seek to impart a 
reformist and socio-demagogic character to bourgeois ideology and 
politics. The ruling circles use all available means to make state- 
monopoly capitalism look a dynamic, constantly developing society 
where technological and economic progress ostensibly entails social 
advancement, alleviates the acute social problems and thereby ren¬ 
ders programmes of revolutionary transformation meaningless. 

Not infrequently, such tactics considerably has impeded the de¬ 
velopment of the working class’ socio-political consciousness and 
set limits to the influence of the working people’s consistently revo¬ 
lutionary vanguard. However, while ensuring temporary advantages 
for the dominant class, this tactics has exacerbated capitalism’s in¬ 
ternal contradictions and laid a larger stage for the popular mas- 
ses’s long-term struggle against it. This is testified to by the events 
of the late 60s and the 70s, when the aggravation of social problems 
facing the capitalist countries and, subsequently, the economic crisis 
and the ensuing economic disturbances and the growth of the threat 
of war provided fresh, more convincing evidence of the incorrigible 








INTRODUCTION 


17 


nature of capitalism and stimulated the upsurge of massive dem¬ 
ocratic movements. 

Powerful blows have been dealt at imperialism both by the in¬ 
ternational working class and the national liberation movement. 
That the consolidation of the forces of socialism created broader 
possibilities for the class and the national liberation struggles has 
been vividly shown by the heroic struggle waged by revolutionary 
Vietnam, whose people succeeded, thanks to the all-round support 
of the socialist countries and the active solidarity of the working 
people throughout the world, in countering and, eventually, gaining 
a victory over the mightiest capitalist countries. The formation of 
the socialist system was accompanied by further big successes in 
the peoples’ struggle to liberate themselves from the colonial yoke. 
Imperialism was forced to change its tactics and to grant indepen¬ 
dence to oppressed nations. The collapse of the colonial system of 
imperialism resulted in the emergence of nearly one hundred inde¬ 
pendent states. For their part, the peoples now free from colonial 
oppression and engaged in independent history-making have con¬ 
tributed to the struggle against imperialism, for peace and social 
progress. This is especially true of those newly-free countries which 
have opted for a socialist orientation. Lenin’s forecast about the his¬ 
toric role to be played by the national liberation movement of the 
imperialist colonies and semi-colonies in the development of world 
revolution has proved to be correct. Characteristically, in the post¬ 
war period the national liberation movement has played this role 
at a new, state level. This has enhanced its importance in interna¬ 
tional politics, and, at the same time, given rise to new problems. 

Consistent democrats, advanced workers in imperialist countries 
have contributed to the successes scored by the peoples of Asian, 
African, and Latin American countries in the post-war period. The 
powerful campaigns of solidarity with Vietnam, Cuba and the fight¬ 
ers for the independence of peoples in South Africa, launched in 
many capitalist countries in defiance of chauvinist and anti-com¬ 
munist campaigns, conduced to the liberation struggle and stimulat¬ 
ed the development of the proletariat’s class and internationalist 
consciousness. A whole generation of fighters for social progress has 
grown under the favourable effect of these movements. 

The post-war period has been highlighted by a closer interaction 
among the chief motive forces of social development—world social¬ 
ism, the labour and communist movements, the peoples of the newly- 
free countries, and the mass democratic movements. The struggles 
waged by working peoples in various countries merge into the peo¬ 
ples’ joint battle against imperialism. The best hopes of mankind’s 
progressive forces are embodied in the labour movement. 

The objective need for the further strengthening of this interac- 

2-0515 





18 


INTRODUCTION 


tion, for bringing down all the barriers hampering the establishment 
of a closer link between the various trends of anti-imperialist strug¬ 
gle heightens the importance of proletarian internationalism and 
the militant solidarity of the fighting peoples. As Lenin put it T 
“Capital is an international force. To vanquish it, an international 
workers 1 alliance, an international workers’ brotherhood, is needed.” 1 
This is especially true today, when in none of the countries the rev¬ 
olutionary movement is in a position to develop as an isolated phe¬ 
nomenon and its success depends on the situation on the other 
fronts of the liberation struggle. Any retreat from the principles of 
international solidarity, the attempts to elaborate the working-class 
movement’s strategy and tactics without taking into account the ex¬ 
perience of the victorious revolutions and the vast experience ac¬ 
cumulated in socialist countries as well as the attempts to oppose 
various contingents of the working class to one another can only lead 
to an impasse. The experience of the post-war decades has shown 
that such attempts are fraught with the danger of grave setbacks. 
This understanding gives special force to the world-wide appeal is¬ 
sued by the participants in the international communist forum, held 
in Moscow in June 1969: “ Peoples of the socialist countries, work¬ 
ers, democratic forces in the capitalist countries, newly liberated 
peoples and those who are oppressed, unite in a common struggle 
against imperialism, for peace, national liberation, social progress, 
democracy and socialism /” 2 

The need for the solidarity and interaction of all the anti-impe¬ 
rialist, democratic forces is dictated not only by the objective factors 
of the internationalisation of the revolutionary process, but also by 
the necessity to foil the enemy’s incidious plans. 

In spite of the serious weakening of its positions in the second 
half of the 20th century, the capitalist class has retained control of 
considerable reserves. Among them is the material wealth accumu¬ 
lated throughout the centuries of exploiting the working people, 
the possibility of using in their selfish interest the achievements 
of the scientific and technological progress, high concentration of 
economic power in the hands of transnational companies, and the 
coalescence of the forces of the monopolies and the bourgeois state. 
Among the reserves the capitalists can rely on is the ignorance and 
prejudices of the backward groups of the population, the contradic¬ 
tions arising in the course of revolutionary movements, and, finally, 


1 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 30, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, 
p. 293 (here and hereafter Progress Publishers, Moscow). 

2 International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Moscow, 1969, 
Peace and Socialism Publishers, Prague, 1969, p. 39. 








INTRODUCTION 


19 


the rallying of the international capitalist forces which, after the 
Second World War, has attained an unprecedented scope due to the 
setting up of the NATO and other aggressive blocs, the economic 
and political integration of Western Europe, the interventionist ac¬ 
tivity of the CIA, and of other mechanisms of imperialist inter¬ 
ference. 

Political manoeuvring the imperialist circles resorted to in a bid 
to cause a split in the forces opposing them has become .especially 
intensive. The disruption of all the attempts to drive a wedge be¬ 
tween the countries of socialism and the revolutionary forces else¬ 
where in the world is a most important prerequisite for the further 
advancement of the labour movement. 

Naturally, the most incidious manoeuvring of the class enemy 
and the large-scale utilisation of the poisoned weapon of anti-com¬ 
munism have failed to check the course of history. This is vividly 
testified to by the post-war developments. The struggle waged by the 
international working class and the changes in the balance of the 
two systems’ forces brought into increasingly sharp focus the inter¬ 
nal contradictions and moribund state of capitalism and precipitated 
its crisis. In the 1970s, the bourgeois society entered a stage of se¬ 
rious disruptions, which revealed the untenability of the existing 
forms of state-monopoly regulation. The growing economic in¬ 
stability of capitalism combined with the growing socio-political 
instability. The working people became increasingly displeased 
with their position, the masses were discontent and demanded 
change. The working-class struggle increasingly tended to con¬ 
centrate on the key issues of the socio-political structure and state 
policy. 

It stands to reason that the economic disturbances and acute so¬ 
cio-political crises characteristic of the present historical period can¬ 
not revolutionise the consciousness of the masses automatically, 
This understanding makes it much more important for the Com¬ 
munists to concentrate on elucidating the deep-rooted causes of eco¬ 
nomic and social privations of the working people, on elaborating a 
democratic alternative to the state-monopoly policy, an alternative 
promoting the interest of the broad masses of the population, and 
on fighting for its implementation. 

Relying on the knowledge of the general laws governing the re¬ 
volutionary process and discovered by Marxism-Leninism, and pro¬ 
ceeding from an analysis of the new conditions and tasks of the 
struggle for peace, democracy and social progress made by the in¬ 
ternational communist movement, the Communist parties have made 
every effort to formulate a clear-cut and constructive answer to 
the questions posed by the times, an answer that takes into account 
the specific features of each country or of each socio-political situ a- 
2 * 







20 


INTRODUCTION 


tion. Today, as never before, a correct correlation of the general 
and the specific, the national and the international elements in the 
struggle of the working class is an important prerequisite for the 
true success of the progressive forces. The elaboration of a scien¬ 
tifically substantiated stand on the issues of the political alliances 
to be formed by the working class, on the economic policy to be 
pursued by the Left and aimed at finding a democratic way out 
of the crisis in compliance with the interests of the masses, on 
the concrete ways to achieve socialist transformation of the state 
and social structure, and on the ideological education of the masses 
is called upon to safeguard the vital interests of the working class, 
of the entire society in the course of its development and the whole 
of mankind. 

Alternative democratic programmes elaborated by Communist par¬ 
ties reflect the complexity and variety of the situations in which the 
working class has to wage its struggle. The Communists’ creative 
approach to the implementation of Ihe basic principles of Marxism- 
Leninism is a guarantee of their overcoming all the difficulties on 
their way towards the ultimate goal. 

Advancing along this road, the labour movement relies on the 
best achievements mankind has gained throughout its history. So¬ 
cialism embodies people’s basic aspirations and it is alone in a po¬ 
sition to cope with the global problems which are facing mankind 
and which have been growing in their importance with the develop¬ 
ment of the scientific and technological revolution. The very exis¬ 
tence of the human race depends on whether or not these problems 
are resolved. Forestalling a new world war, satisfying the needs of 
the world’s growing population, overcoming the developing coun¬ 
tries’ backwardness, maintaining the planet’s geographical and eco¬ 
logical balance are all problems which cannot be solved under cap¬ 
italism. A new civilisation, one worthy of man, can emerge only 
as a result of completing the great revolutionary process whose de¬ 
velopment constitutes the content of the present era, the era of tran¬ 
sition from capitalism to socialism and the historical competition of 
the two socio-political systems. 


* * * 

In contrast to the previous volumes of the present edition, the 
sixth volume is devoted to the analysis of the labour movement in 
the developed capitalist countries alone. The problems of the work¬ 
ing class, the workers’ movements in socialist and developing coun¬ 
tries and the international communist movement will be considered 
in the subsequent volumes. This structure has been determined by 
the peculiarities of the historical period that started after the end 









INTRODUCTION 


21 


of the Second World War, namely, by the tremendous growth in 
the scale of the historic activity of the international labour move¬ 
ment and the increasing volume and variety of tasks facing its var¬ 
ious contingents. 

Having broken from the world capitalist system, a number of 
countries started to build a socialist society. This process takes on 
various forms, depending on the conditions obtaining in each coun¬ 
try. The disintegration of imperialism’s colonial system and the 
upsurge in the national liberation movement have heightened the 
socio-political role played by the labour movement in the countries 
of Latin America, Asia, and Africa and have largely modified and 
complicated the nature of these countries’ development. It is im¬ 
portant to reveal the specific character of each of the main contin¬ 
gents of the international workers’ movement in a new historical 
context and to analyse the development of each of them in all its 
variety. Such an approach makes it possible to understand the sys¬ 
tem of ties ensuring the development of the international labour 
movement as a single whole and the international unity objectively 
inherent in this movement. 

The principal tendencies in the evolution of the working-class 
movement in capitalist countries reflect the dominant features and 
regularities of the modern epoch. In the capitalist world, says the 
Party Programme, adopted by the 27th CPSU Congress, the working 
class is “the main force struggling for the overthrow of the exploit¬ 
ing system and for building a new society”. 

The labour movement originated in the “old” capitalist countries. 
It is here that the movement made its first steps, developed into a 
major social force and was equipped with a scientifically substan¬ 
tiated revolutionary theory. It is by its principles that the fighters 
for socialism throughout the world are guided today. The labour 
movement in these countries struggles against the most developed and 
sophisticated system of capitalist exploitation and opposes capitalist 
domination in those vital centres of capitalism where its principal 
reserves are concentrated. It is impossible to eliminate capitalism as 
a social system without doing away with capitalist domination in 
these centres. 

The variety of factors determining the conditions in which work¬ 
ing class lives and struggles, the differences in the situations ob¬ 
taining in various countries and regions, and the emergence of dif¬ 
ferent internal and international factors determine the uneven and 
variously directed development of the labour movement. The authors 
of this volume regard it their task to reveal the main, determinative 
tendencies behind the complexity and contradictions of the his¬ 
torical dynamics of the labour movement. The understanding of 
these tendencies and of the way they manifest themselves in 







22 


INTRODUCTION 


different national and regional conditions is important for the 
assessment of the general and the specific aspects of the working- 
class struggle and the objectively international character of this 
struggle. 

This understanding is also important in advocating the Marxist- 
Leninist conception of the working class’ leading role in the revo¬ 
lutionary transformations taking place in the world. In the last few 
decades the actual difficulties and problems faced by the revolution¬ 
ary process in capitalist countries have been actively played up 
by the opponents of Marxism-Leninism and by revisionists of var¬ 
ious hues in their criticism of this conception. Both bourgeois so¬ 
ciologists and proponents of ultra-left theories talk much about the 
working class in capitalist countries “turning bourgeois”, being dis¬ 
integrated and forfeiting its independent historical role and revolu¬ 
tionary potential. Such theories have been comprehensively analysed 
and criticised in Soviet literature; 1 the study of the actual develop¬ 
ment of the labour movement, its tendencies and regularities is espe¬ 
cially instrumental in disproving them. 

In the 40s-80s, the GPSU and the fraternal Communist parties 
did a lot to give a theoretical interpretation to the new problems 
and the new experience of the international labour movement. Their 
assessments and conclusions provide a reliable methodological basis 
for investigating the problems dealt with in the present volume. A 
most detailed analysis of the highlights of the present stage of the 
world revolutionary process and the specific features of the labour 
movement in capitalist countries is to be found in the materials of 
the CPSU congresses and the new edition of the Party Programme 
adopted by the 27th Congress and in the documents of the interna¬ 
tional meetings and conferences of Communist and Workers’ parties. 
In their analysis the authors of this volume have relied on these 
and other documents of the CPSU and the international communist 
movement. 

The problems of the capitalist countries’ economic and political 
development in the post-war period and the questions of the com¬ 
munist, labour, and democratic movements have been extensively 
studied by Soviet 2 and foreign Marxist scholars. The authors of the 
present volume have made maximum use of the data and findings 
provided by their research. 


1 See, for instance, Modern Capitalism and the Working Class: A Critique 
of Anti-Marxist Concepts , Moscow, 1976 (in Russian). 

2 A comprehensive analysis of the Soviet historiography of the labour 
movement in the developed countries in the latter half of the 50s-70s was 
made in the book by B. I. Rasputnis, The Soviet Historiography of the 
Modern Labour Movement, Part 1 and 2, Lvov, 1976, and 1980 (in Russian). 







INTRODUCTION 


23 


The structure of the present volume differs from that of the pre¬ 
vious volumes. The contemporary history of the labour movement 
as it is unfolding before our eyes constitutes despite the attention 
Soviet and foreign researchers have devoted to it, the least studied 
period of the labour movement. This is accounted for by the un¬ 
precedented scope of the revolutionary process which has today ac¬ 
quired a truly global character, the emergence of ever new sources 
of research, and the accumulation of the movement’s vast experi¬ 
ence. The latter elucidates those phenomena and processes of the 
recent past in which today’s developments are rooted. Among the 
subjects that call for careful examination are the serious changes 
that have occurred over the last few decades in the social structure 
of capitalist society, the changes in the composition of the working 
class, in its objective situation and conditions of struggle, in the 
volume and nature of its gains, in the level of its consciousness, 
in the balance of forces within the labour movement and in the 
strategy and tactics of its vanguard. 

All this accounts for the combination of two approaches in the 
present volume: a regional-historical approach aimed at tracing the 
process of the consistent development of the labour movement in 
developed capitalist countries and a problem-oriented approach 
aimed at a goal-oriented analysis of the prerequisites for and condi¬ 
tions of the historical process, its individual factors and aspects. 
Wherever possible, the two approaches were combined within a 
chapter or a section. However, it was found to be more expedient 
to single out major problems and treat them as independent struc¬ 
tural units. This primarily concerns the analysis of the changes in 
the international and national contexts of the working-class strug¬ 
gle, the changes in the working-class structure, position and con¬ 
sciousness, as well as the study of the history of strikes and the 
trade union movement and interrelationship between the principal 
trends in the international labour movement. 

By applying the Leninist approach to the study of the history of 
the labour movement, the authors of the present volume have sought 
to elucidate the interaction between the objective and the subjec¬ 
tive factors, the mass struggle and the mass consciousness of the 
workers on the one hand, and the policy and ideology of the work¬ 
ing-class organisations, on the other. This accounts for the consid¬ 
erable attention given in this volume to the activity of the Com¬ 
munist parties. 1 The period under consideration is highlighted by 


1 An integral analysis of the activity of the international communist 
movement, the theory, strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle is 
contained in the final volume of the present edition. For this reason, these 
problems are not considered in detail in this volume. 





24 


INTRODUCTION 


the development of the communist movement in capitalist countries 
and the growing influence it exerts on the political life. In a num¬ 
ber of countries, Communist parties play the leading role in the 
struggle waged by the working class and its allies and in resolving 
the problems facing the labour movement in the new historical con¬ 
text. The Communists should be merited on the theoretical elabo¬ 
ration of the strategy and tactics of the proletariat’s revolutionary 
struggle and on the development of its class consciousness. The 
theoretical and practical activity of the Communist parties is insep¬ 
arable from the labour movement as it constitutes its important 
integral part. 

Today, the international labour movement is inconceivable with¬ 
out the vanguard role of the Communists. Heroically fighting na- 
zism in the front ranks of all the democratic and patriotic forces, 
upholding, in the most difficult years of the cold war, the interna¬ 
tionalist principles of the labour movement, defending the working 
people’s interests, consolidating the ranks of the fighters against 
the monopolies and reaction and displaying tenacity, flexibility and 
creative potential in blazing the trail of the revolutionary struggle, 
the Communists have written down glorious pages in modern his¬ 
tory. As was pointed out in the materials of the 26th CPSU Con¬ 
gress, “despite terror and persecution, despite prison and the barbed 
wire of concentration camps, in selfless and often very difficult eve¬ 
ryday work for the good of the peoples, Communists in the capital¬ 
ist countries remain loyal to the ideals of Marxism-Leninism and 
proletarian internationalism”. 1 

Four decades constitute a comparatively short period in terms 
of the entire epoch. Not all the tasks the objective social develop¬ 
ment set the labour movement could be resolved within this period. 
The history of the labour movement is a complicated, uneven and 
contradictory process, in which successes are combined with tem¬ 
porary setbacks. However, for all the obstacles and zigzagging on 
the road to the ultimate goal, the working class has made another 
tremendous leap forward, making the hour of the final victory draw 
closer. The reliance on the vast experience accumulated in this pe¬ 
riod provides the world’s labour movement with a powerful stimu¬ 
lus for further struggle. 


1 Documents and Resolutions. The 26th Congress of the CPSU , 
p. 26. 






Part One 


THE LABOUR MOVEMENT 
IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES 
IN THE EARLY POST-WAR YEARS (1945-1955). 









Chapter 1 

THE OUTCOME OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR 
AND THE LABOUR MOVEMENT 
IN DEVELOPED CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 


A NEW INTERNATIONAL SITUATION AND PROSPECTS 
FOR THE WORKING-CLASS STRUGGLE 

The crushing defeat of nazism in 1945 was the historic victory of 
all the forces of democracy and progress headed by the Soviet 
Union. 

The war itself and the way it ended brought about enormous 
changes in the international scene, altering the balance of world 
forces—those of democracy, progress and socialism, on the one hand, 
and those of reaction and imperialism, on the other—and signal¬ 
ling the beginning of a second stage in the general crisis of capi¬ 
talism. The events of the war and post-war years gave a fresh im¬ 
petus to the world-wide revolutionary process. The victory won by 
the anti-nazi coalition in which the Soviet Union constituted the 
decisive force, created conditions conducive for the development of 
the anti-fascist and national liberation struggles into people’s dem¬ 
ocratic and socialist revolutions in a number of countries in Cen¬ 
tral and South-East Europe and Asia. The early post-war years 
also witnessed an abrupt change in the internal political situation 
prevailing in developed capitalist, colonial and semi-dependent coun¬ 
tries. 

Foiled were the imperialist circles’ hopes for the Soviet Union 
being routed or considerably weakened in the war. Contrary to their 
expectations, the progress of war proved that the socialist economy 
had enormous advantages over the capitalist economy. In the trying 
circumstances of war, it took the Soviet Union only a few months 
to put its industry on a war footing. The Soviet people was able to 
gain a history-making victory in the Great Patriotic War by rely¬ 
ing on a powerful socialist economy created in the course of the 
first five-year-plan periods. The Soviet people’s ability to meet the 
challenge of formidable trials testified, yet again, to Lenin’s fore¬ 
sight, “a nation in which the majority of the workers and peasants 
realise, feel and see that they are fighting for their own Soviet 
power . . . such a nation can never be vanquished”. 1 

V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 29, 1977, p. 319. 


i 








28 


CHAPTER 1 


The Second World War ended in the crushing defeat and elimi¬ 
nation of the fascist regimes in Germany and in Italy; Japanese 
militarism was routed, too. Thus, the mightiest coalition of the most 
aggressive imperialist powers, the strike force of imperialism, so to 
speak, proved incapable of shattering socialism. 

The Soviet people’s victory, its contribution to the struggle 
against fascism heightened the Soviet Union’s authority and political 
influence in the international scene. The Red Army’s performance 
on battlefield and the co-operation of the anti-Hitler coalition pow¬ 
ers made millions of people throughout the world aware of the 
potentialities of socialism and of the true—humane and peaceable— 
content of Soviet foreign policy. 

The capitalist system emerged from the war sharply weakened. 
Economic consequences of the Second World War for imperialism, 
above all, for the leading imperialist powers, were determined by 
the scope of the war and by its enhancing and precipitating effect 
on the unevenness of the economic and political development of in¬ 
dividual countries, inherent in capitalism. The successes initially 
scored by Hitler’s Germany in the West European theatre of war 
resulted in the severance of economic ties that once connected the 
occupied countries (for instance, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, 
Denmark and Norway) with one another and with the rest of the 
world and in the adaptation of their economies to the military and 
economic needs of the aggressor. The economy of the Axis powers, 
lop-sidedly orientated towards meeting war needs, became deform¬ 
ed likewise. Economic potentials were undermined by staggering 
military spendings and the enormous devastation caused by the 
war. 

Those of the capitalist states which did not find themselves under 
the aggressor’s heel—among them, the United States, Sweden, Ca¬ 
nada, and Australia—took advantage of the war-time situation to 
consolidate their economic positions in the world, oust or put pres¬ 
sure to bear on their main rivals. This policy was especially charac¬ 
teristic of the United States of America which expected to take the 
place the old European imperialist powers used to occupy in the 
world. This was to be achieved by economic and political means, 
i.e. by ousting the Old World powers, weakened by the war, from 
their former spheres of influence and by saddling them with such 
forms of post-war peaceful settlement that would further US in¬ 
terests in the first place. These expectations have largely come true. 

Among the important consequences of the Second World War were 
broader possibilities of developing a large-scale and incomparably 
better organised national liberation movement. It is in the course 
of the war and in the early post-war years that the stage was 
laid for the process which in the 50s and especially in the 60s led 







POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 29 


to the emergence of nearly one hundred new states, equal and ac¬ 
tive members of the international community. 

The pre-war and war years witnessed the unfolding of one of 
the most powerful popular movements of the period in question: the 
anti-imperialist, national liberation struggle of the Chinese people. 
Its eventual success was largely promoted by the Soviet Union’s 
victory over militarist Japan. The years of 1945 and 1946 witnessed 
North Korea breaking off with capitalism. On September 2, 
1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed. On 
October 12, 1945 Laos was declared independent. The Kampuchean 
people, too, mounted an armed struggle for liberation. 

The attempts to restore the former order of things in the colonies 
whose population had taken part in military operations invariably 
met with its growing resistance and, not infrequently, armed coun¬ 
ter-action. This was the case in India, Burma, Malaya and the Phi¬ 
lippines. In 1945, Indonesia’s and in 1947, India’s independence 
were proclaimed. Protests against colonialism, as well as against 
indigenous forces of tyranny, swept almost the whole of the Middle 
East. 

A particularly important contribution to the post-war anti-impe¬ 
rialist, national liberation movement was made by those peoples 
and countries where the working class, headed by the Communists, 
acted as its leader and most active force—Central and South-East 
Europe, China, North Korea and Vietnam. The fact that Commu¬ 
nist parties had a leading role to play in these countries had a pro¬ 
found effect on the character and social content of the national lib¬ 
eration movement and accounted for the most significant revolu¬ 
tionary gains won in the entire area of imperialism’s colonial periph¬ 
ery. Of great importance was also the fact that the Soviet Union, 
a socialist state, had a decisive role to play in determining the out¬ 
come of the Second World War and laying the foundations of the 
post-war world. 

The military, economic and political results of the Second World 
War, the new alignment of the world’s class forces in the early post¬ 
war years, the serious weakening of the forces of imperialism and 
reaction in practically all areas and the expansion of the national 
liberation movement created favourable conditions for the growth 
of the labour and general democratic movements in capitalist coun¬ 
tries. These conditions were further consolidated by the movements 
in question. In the countries which had experienced fascist dicta¬ 
torships or occupation, a considerable part of the bourgeoisie and its 
spokesmen in the upper echelons of political parties and state ma¬ 
chinery were discredited by their collaboration with the nazis. The 
collapse of the fascist regimes in these countries created, for a cer¬ 
tain period, a peculiar situation marked by the rejection of some 








30 


CHAPTER 1 


of the customary practices in managing the capitalist economy, by 
the sharp weakening of the political influence of traditional bour¬ 
geois parties and mass organisations and by the discomfiture of the 
ruling circles which feverishly looked for new allies, new orienta¬ 
tions and new means of retaining their domination. 

Thus, in Germany, the rout of nazism and the collapse of the 
nazi Reich signified not only economic dislocation and the break¬ 
down of the nazi party, army, state and coercion mechanisms, but 
also the defeat of the monopoly groups of Alfred Krupp, Friedrich 
Flick, Hugo Stinnes and others who had given their blessing to Hit¬ 
ler’s coming to power. As a result of the downfall of the Mussolini 
regime the Marinotti, Gini, Donegani and other monopoly groups 
forfeited their influence on Italy’s policy and economy. The monar¬ 
chist and fascist organisations and the financial monopoly clique 
were abolished in Japan. Completely discredited were the monopo¬ 
lists, bankers and bourgeois politicians who collaborated with the 
invaders in France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and other Euro¬ 
pean countries temporarily ruled by the nazis. 

The Resistance movement that emerged in the occupied European 
countries during the war united various democratic forces. Objec¬ 
tively, the movement set itself—and solved—not only the task of 
fighting nazism, but also the far-reaching task of social emancipa¬ 
tion of the working people. In many countries, the Resistance move¬ 
ment grew into people’s democratic or national liberation revolu¬ 
tions. Everywhere without exception, the working class was in the 
vanguard of the movement. After the war, its participants acted as 
a united force urging democratic transformations. 

Communist parties had a special role to play in the Resistance 
movement and in the post-war activity of the democratic and anti¬ 
imperialist forces in capitalist countries. Despite the fact that in 
practically all European countries the Communists suffered the 
greatest losses in the struggle against fascism not only did they 
preserve their organisation intact, but they consolidated it and 
gained a higher prestige among the masses. Whereas before the war, 
in 1939, there were in the world 61 Communist parties with a mem¬ 
bership of four million people, including 1.5 million in capitalist 
countries, in 1947, these figures grew to 76, to 20 million and 4.8 
million, 1 respectively. The emergence of the Communist parties 
from the underground after the war and the enormous growth of 
their authority, especially dramatic against the background of the 
shrinking prestige of the bourgeois parties, multiplied the possibil¬ 
ities open to the anti-monopoly forces. The victory over fascism 


1 International Relations After the Second World War, Vol. 1, p. 73 (in 
Russian). 








POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 31 


and the end of the war, regarded as history-making events, in¬ 
stilled great hopes in the masses and caused a democratic upsurge 
which to various degrees engulfed all the capitalist countries. The 
upsurge was stimulated by the aspiration for a better future, social 
justice and the working people’s guaranteed rights. 

The positions gained by the summer of 1945 by the French work¬ 
ing class, which had played an important role in liberating the 
country and restoring its independence, were incomparable even to 
those it enjoyed at the time of the Popular Front. The workers’ rev¬ 
olutionary vanguard, the Communist Party, numbered more than 
900,000 members. At the October 1945 elections to the Constituent 
Assembly, the French Communist Party won more than 5 million 
votes (26 per cent of all the votes cast) and thus proved to be the 
country’s strongest political party. 

The Italian working class and its organisations made a weighty 
contribution to the liberation of their country. Nearly 142,000 out 
of 224,000 guerrillas were members of the Communist-led Garibal¬ 
di detachments. 1 Luigi Longo, a prominent figure in the Italian Com¬ 
munist Party, was among the leaders of the Freedom Volunteers 
Corps (guerrilla forces). It was only natural that the Italian Com¬ 
munist Party, the only political force which had not ceased to fight, 
fascism in the underground conditions and which following the vic¬ 
tory led the people in its struggle for a new, democratic Italy, gained 
tremendous authority. As early as 1945, the Italian Communist 
Party had a membership of 1.7 million. 2 At the 1946 elections to 
Lhe Constituent Assembly it won 19 per cent of the votes (as against 
4.7 per cent in 1921, prior to the fascists’ coining to power). 3 

In the western zones of Germany, the Communists, who did not 
give up struggle even in the hardest years of the war, began to re¬ 
store, under the leadership of the CPG Central Committee, their or¬ 
ganisations. The effort was launched in the summer of 1945; by the 
autumn of the same year grass-roots, regional and zonal communist 
organisations were set up. From the outset, they played a signifi¬ 
cant role in the country’s political and social life. In the spring of 
1946, there were 205,000 Communists in the western zones of Ger¬ 
many. 4 

As soon as they were released from prisons, the Japanese Com¬ 
munists, too, began to restore their organisations. As early as De¬ 
cember 1945, they held their first post-war congress. 


1 History of Italy, Vol. 3, Moscow, 1971, p. 226 (in Russian). 

2 Ibid., p. 238. 

3 N. P. Komolova, The Resistance Movement and the Political Struggle in 
Italy f Moscow, 1972, p. 351 (in Russian). 

4 V. P. Iyerusalimsky, The Years of Struggle and Maturing , Moscow, 1970, 
P. 127 (in Russain). 









.32 


CHAPTER i 


Some of the Communist parties acquired a mass character. For 
instance, the membership of the Communist Party of Belgium ex¬ 
ceeded 70,000. The Communist Party of Finland, which came out 
■of the underground only in 1944, numbered 15,000 members by 
the summer of 1945. The Finnish People’s Democratic League, 
which united the Communists, part of the left-wing Social Demo- 
■crats and other progressive public figures and organisations on the 
platform of common struggle for democratic transformation, had a 
membership of 40,000 and gained 24 per cent of votes at the first 
post-war parliamentary elections. Some 12.5 per cent of the voters 
supported the Communists at the elections to the Danish Folketing 
(Parliament) held in the autumn of 1945. At the elections to the 
-Storting, the Norwegian Communists gained 12 per cent of the votes. 
More than 500,000 people voted for the Communists at the July 
1946 elections in the Netherlands. They received 10 seats in par¬ 
liament (as against three seats before the war). A second Commu¬ 
nist was elected to British Parliament in 1945. Even in Sweden, 
which remained neutral during the war, the number of voters sup¬ 
porting the Communists at the 1944 and 1946 elections grew 3 to 
3.5 times as against 1940. 

As for the Communist Party of the United States, it was in no 
position to boast comparable successes. The Browder group at the 
helm of the Party took a liquidationist stand. They played on the 
fact that the Soviet Union and the Western capitalist countries had 
been allies in the war in a bid to put the Party on the platform of 
-class collaboration. Banking on the situation prevailing in the Uni¬ 
ted States, the Browder group tried to prove that it was possible to 
establish a class peace and attain harmony between labour and cap¬ 
ital. They claimed that it was not impossible to transform US capi¬ 
talism into “progressive” capitalism. In 1942, Browder advanced the 
motto of “national unity” and called on the workers to join the 
monopolists’ effort to achieve an early victory in the war. In 1944, 
•on the initiative of the Browder group, the Party was replaced by 
an amorphous Communist Political Association. 

In this period, there was no force in the Party’s leadership strong 
•enough to counter this liquidationist trend and oppose the theoret¬ 
ically erroneous and politically dangerous policy. Browderism, which 
■eventually degenerated into an overt apologia of US imperialism, 
did great harm to the Communist Party of the USA. Its membership 
shrunk and the Communists’ positions in the labour unions, as well 
as their influence at the grass-root level, were considerably weak¬ 
ened. 1 

1 W. Z. Foster, “The Struggle Against Revisionism”, Political Affairs, 
'No. 9, 1945, pp. 782-799; W. Z. Foster, “Leninism and Some Practical Prob¬ 
lems of the Postwar Period”, Political Affairs, No. 2, 1946, pp. 108-109. 







POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 33 


In this context, the Party’s Marxist-Leninist nucleus which op¬ 
posed Browder’s right-wing opportunist policy decided to prepare 
for and convene the 13th (extraordinary) Convention of the CP 
USA. The Convention was held in the summer of 1945. On the ini¬ 
tiative of William Foster and Eugene Dennis, a decision was taken 
to restore the Communist Party. Having exposed Browderism at 
their Convention, the US Communists did a lot to overcome the 
acute ideological and organisational crisis ravaging their Party and 
thereby proved their loyalty to Marxism-Leninism. 

On the whole, in the early post-war years the communist move¬ 
ment in developed capitalist countries grew stronger politically and 
organisationally. The Communists turned into a major national 
force in many countries. They were able to exert noticeable influence 
on political life in other countries and acted as a revolutionary van¬ 
guard everywhere. As the initiators of far-reaching democratic 
changes, they urged consistent and complete solution of democratic 
tasks, regarding this as part of the struggle for socialism and as a 
way of bringing the masses closer to socialist revolution. In 1947, 
the number of Communists in the developed capitalist countries 
reached 3.5 million, i.e. more than doubled as against the 1939 level. 
Nearly 14 million voters supported the Communists. 

The same period saw the restoration of Social Democratic parties. 
They, too, enjoyed a growth in membership. In 1945, the French 
and the Italian Socialist parties numbered 300,000 and 700,000 
members, respectively. As for the German Social Democrats, it took 
them a longer time to restore their party, completely crushed by 
the nazis. 

The British Labour Party was the strongest and the most influen¬ 
tial organisation in the Social Democratic movement. Britain did 
not have to experience the trials of the clandestine anti-nazi strug¬ 
gle which in Europe brought about a change in the balance of 
forces within the workers’ movement in favour of the Communists. 
Therefore, in Britain the post-war democratic upsurge was reflected 
in the growth of the Labour Party’s influence. The Party had a 
membership of 3,000,000 1 and was supported by the British Trades 
Union Congress which united 6.7 out of 7.8 million trade unionists. 2 
The Labourites had close ties with the highly influential co-opera¬ 
tive movement. The activity of the Labour Party, the BTUC and 
the Co-operative Union was co-ordinated by the National Labour 
Council. At the elections held in the summer of 1945, 12 million 
voters (48.5 per cent) supported the Labourites and secured for 
them 62 per cent of parliamentary seats. 

1 Report of the Seventy-First Annual Conference of the Labour Party, 
Blackpool, 1972, London, 1972, p. 60. 

2 Trades Union Congress Report, 1977, London, 1978, pp. 651-652. 

3-0515 





34 


CHAPTER 1 


The relations between the two main trends in the workers’ move¬ 
ment—the Communists and the Social Democrats—was a top-prior¬ 
ity question for the post-war Europe. These relations determined 
the extent to which the working class could take advantage of the 
situation arising from defeat of fascism and the upsurge in the 
post-war democratic sentiment in the interests of the working peo¬ 
ple, in the name of peace, democracy and socialism. 

The growing authority of the Soviet Union and the Communist 
parties and the ensuing weakening of the anti-communist preju¬ 
dices, the Communists’ and the Socialists’ participation in the Resis¬ 
tance movement, the very context of the upsurge in the democratic 
sentiment which heightened the popularity of the idea of radical 
social transformation and, finally, the importance attached to gen¬ 
eral democratic tasks—all this resulted in the considerable improve¬ 
ment of the relationships among the principal trends in the work¬ 
ers’ movement and bolstered the left-wing tendencies in the social 
democratic and trade union ranks. 

The persons who had collaborated with the nazis in France were 
expelled from the SFIO. The Belgian Socialist Party dissociated 
itself from the collaborationists, the supporters of Hendrik de Man, 
a former PSB leader. The Tanner group which had enjoyed a domin¬ 
ant position among the leaders of the Social Democratic Party of 
Finland, the only social democratic party which had struck an overt 
alliance with the nazis during the war, lost its positions in the 
Party. This was accompanied by the strengthening of the Party’s 
left wing which urged to do away with the vestiges of nazism. 

The programmes of many Socialist parties included the demand to 
eradicate fascism, democratise social and political life, socialise cer¬ 
tain branches of the economy and effect other far-reaching trans¬ 
formations. The Italian Socialists regarded the setting up of a dem¬ 
ocratic republic, the socialisation of a number of monopolies and 
an agrarian reform as the country’s top-priority tasks. The Party 
was at the left flank of international social democracy. The demands 
similar to the ones it advanced were not infrequently included in 
the post-war programmes of other Socialist parties. For instance, in 
the autumn of 1945, the Social Democratic Party of Denmark adopt¬ 
ed a radical programme which mapped out progressive socio-eco¬ 
nomic reforms, including the nationalisation of the enterprises belong¬ 
ing to the monopolies which had co-operated with the nazis. Many 
of the social democratic programmes of the early post-war years 
were close to the Communist parties’ programmes in terms of the 
priorities they set forth. This, as well as the experience of the Re¬ 
sistance movement, gave rise to the proposals to unite workers’ 
parties and secure organisational and political unity of the labour 
movement. 







POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 35 


The idea of the merger of the Communist and the Socialist par¬ 
ties was widely discussed in France, Italy, Denmark, Norway and 
some other countries. The Communists sought to see to it that this 
idea, popular with the masses, was implemented according to clear- 
cut political and organisational principles ruling out ideological 
confusion and thus promoting the labour movement. The Italian 
Communists proposed to the Socialists to set up a federation of 
their two parties and consequently to merge them into a single prole¬ 
tarian revolutionary party. The 10th FCP Congress held in June 
1945 charted a concrete programme of preparations for the merger 
of the two parties on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The 
Congress adopted the Draft Charter of Unity which declared that 
the united workers’ party aimed at “creating a state ensuring the 
working-class’ power”. The Draft emphasised that the Party would 
struggle for the “victory of socialism in France along the lines 
corresponding to the country’s situation and national spirit”. 1 

A broad campaign to promote the unity of the working class was 
unfolding in West Germany. Since July 1945 the country had been 
witnessing nascent cooperation between the Social Democrats and 
the Communists, the setting up of joint action committees on the 
common platform of the struggle to eliminate the vestiges and roots 
of nazism, to combat starvation, economic disruption and unem¬ 
ployment, to democratise the country, to create democratic self- 
government bodies and to improve the position of the popular 
masses. 

The merger of West-European workers’ parties was not attained 
primarily because most social democratic leaders either did not work 
towards it seriously enough (as was the case in France) or wanted 
to achieve it in such a way that Communist parties be engulfed by 
Social Democratic parties and adopt a social-reformist stand, as was 
the case in Norway. Nonetheless, co-operation between the Commu¬ 
nists and the Socialists observed in 1944-1947 almost everywhere 
(in France and Italy this co-operation was envisaged by the Unity 
of Action Pacts) served as a powerful factor in strengthening the 
working-class’ positions and provided valuable experience on which 
the labour movement was to rely for many years to come. 

In many countries this co-operation made it possible to restore the 
trade union movement along new lines, consolidate organisational 
unity of the working class, encourage the unity of action of its 
various contingents in the everyday struggle, and to change the 
balance of forces within its ranks, irrespective of their affiliation 
with any specific trend, in favour of the left. In France, the recon¬ 
stituted General Confederation of Labour (CGT) united 5.5 million 

1 Histoire du Parti communiste franqais (manuel), Paris, 1964, pp. 462-463. 
3 * 





36 


CHAPTER 1 


workers and maintained close ties with the French Confederation 
of Christian Workers numbering 750,000 members. 1 Trade unions 
of all trends co-operated in the National Committee for the Restora¬ 
tion of Trade Union Unity. The Italian General Confederation of 
Labour (CGIL) which united Communists, Socialists, Catholics and 
non-party workers and was headed by G. di Vittorio, had a member¬ 
ship of 4.5 million. In West Germany, the joint effort of Social 
Democrats and Communists resulted in the emergence of new trade 
unions which defended the rights of the working people and sought 
to improve their position. In Austria, too, efforts were made to re¬ 
constitute class-oriented trade unions. In Japan, the membership of 
trade unions, many of which had been set up on the Communists 1 
initiative and were structured on the production principle, was grow¬ 
ing rapidly. In 1946, they united nearly 4 million workers. 2 

The stronger positions gained by the militant proletarian vanguard, 
the better organisation of the working class, the consolidation of its 
ranks, its mission of a staunch and consistent champion of democ¬ 
racy and of genuine national interests made it possible for the 
proletariat to establish extensive social ties and act as a unifying 
national force. The working class’ ties with other social groups ex¬ 
panded and in a number of countries its influence spread not only 
to the poor peasantry, but also to a considerable section of the mid¬ 
dle strata. 

The decisive contribution made by the working class and its par¬ 
ties to the anti-nazi struggle laid the stage for co-operation among 
the Communists, the Socialists and the bourgeois anti-fascists with¬ 
in the Resistance movement. After the war, in many countries this 
led to the setting up of coalition governments with the participation 
of all the anti-fascist parties. In 1945-1947, representatives of eight 
Communist parties held ministerial posts in the governments of 
developed West European capitalist countries—France, Italy, Bel¬ 
gium, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland. For instance, 
in 1947 Belgium had four Communist ministers in its government. 
For a number of years, in France, Italy and Austria the post of 
deputy prime minister belonged to the Communists. For the first 
time in their history, the eight Communist parties in question par¬ 
ticipated in the ruling coalitions. The Communists’ participation in 
governments helped to enhance the influence and broadened the ties 
of the working class, to combine the struggle “from below” with 
the struggle “from above” and to effect democratic transformations 
in various spheres of social life. Representatives of Socialist and 


1 The Workers’ Movement in France (1917-1967), Essays, Moscow, 1968, 
pp. 266, 270 (in Russian). 

2 Recent. History, Part II, Moscow, 1959, p. 609 (in Russian). 








POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 37 


Social Democratic parties had seats in the post-war governments in 
twelve developed capitalist countries. 

Thus, following the defeat of fascism, the international situation 
and the balance of forces in capitalist countries (in Austria, Brit¬ 
ain, Belgium, Finland, Japan, and above all, in France and Italy) 
changed, although to different extent, in favour of the working 
class. Despite serious obstacles, the working class in these countries 
had a possibility to work towards turning into the nation’s leading 
force, urging consistent democratisation and social justice, and res¬ 
toration of the economy. The unity of the working-class action and 
the cohesion of all the progressive forces were important prerequi¬ 
sites for success. 

There was a close link between advancement of the working class 
in capitalist countries, its growing activity, higher political aware¬ 
ness and better organisation, on the one hand, and the expansion 
and strengthening of its international ties, on the other. 

The Communists were true standard-bearers of internationalism. 
They fostered the unity of action of the working class in capitalist 
countries and promoted its solidarity with the Soviet Union, with 
the people’s democratic and socialist revolutions in the countries 
of Central and South-East Europe and with national liberation 
movements. Thus, the French Communist Party vigorously supported 
the liberation struggle waged in French colonies. It gave its aid to 
the Democratic Republic of Vietnam established in 1945. The Ita¬ 
lian Communist Party rendered appreciable support to the struggle 
for the sovereignty and socialist development waged by the peo¬ 
ples of Yugoslavia and Albania. The Communist Party of Great 
Britain displayed solidarity with the anti-imperialist movement in 
India and opposed British intervention in the Middle East, Indone¬ 
sia, Indochina, and China. The Communist Party of the Netherlands 
resolutely opposed imperialist intervention in Indonesia. The US 
Communists voiced their protests against the US imperialists’ ag¬ 
gressive plans as regards China. Communist parties in all European 
capitalist countries showed solidarity with the Soviet Union, which 
played the leading role in the efforts towards a just and peaceful 
post-war settlement and for maintaining the co-operation that was 
established among the countries of the anti-fascist coalition during 
the war. 

The setting up of the World Federation of Trade Unions was a 
major victory of the champions of proletarian internationalism and 
the unity of the international workers’ movement. 

The WFTU was set up on the initiative of the supporters of the 
revolutionary trend in the workers’ movement at the First World 
Trade Union Congress held in Paris late in September 1945. The 
Congress was attended by trade unionists from 56 countries, who 





38 


CHAPTER i 


spoke on behalf of 67 million workers. 1 

The Charter adopted by the Congress set forth the principles of 
the WFTU activity: trade unions’ independence, trade union democ¬ 
racy, fraternal mutual assistance, exchange of experience and co-or¬ 
dination of efforts. Specifying the WFTU aims, the Charter empha¬ 
sised that the Federation was to unite trade unions all over the 
world, irrespective of their members’ race, nationality, religious and 
political beliefs, assist in setting up trade unions wherever they did 
not exist, fight for the extermination of fascism in all its manifesta¬ 
tions, struggle to eliminate war and its causes, uphold economic and 
social rights and democratic freedoms, and consolidate the unity of 
all working people. The Congress elected the WFTU governing bod¬ 
ies—the General Council and the Executive Committee. The latter 
set up an Executive Bureau consisting of the Committee’s members. 
Walter Citrine was elected Chairman and Louis Saillant, General 
Secretary. 

The new international trade union organisation considerably dif¬ 
fered from the pre-war trade union centres. 2 It comprised trade 
unions from all countries—socialist, capitalist, dependent and colo¬ 
nial ones. The Federation incorporated trade unions of various orien¬ 
tation. Some of them supported the Communists, while others grav¬ 
itated towards social reformists and anarchists, or towards Catholic 
or other bourgeois parties. Importantly, it was the first organisation 
to unite almost all trade unions existing in the world. Only very few 
trade unions refused to participate in the WFTU. Among them were 
the American Federation of Labour, which opposed any co-opera¬ 
tion with the Communists (it should be noted that another Ameri¬ 
can trade union association, CIO, joined the WFTU) and the Inter¬ 
national Federation of Christian Trade Unions (IFCTU). Without 
making its position dependent on the stand taken by any one party, 
the WFTU came out in defence of the most general and vital inter¬ 
ests, both economic and political, of the working class. This con¬ 
duced to the hegemony of the revolutionary trend in the internatio¬ 
nal trade union movement and to the working class’ successes. 

Since its inception, the WFTU persistently called upon working 
people, governments, and the United Nations to use all available 
means to eradicate fascism in Spain, Greece and some other coun¬ 
tries. Rallying the working people, the WFTU pointed out that a 
lasting peace had not yet been established and urged democratic 
solution to the post-war problems, specifically, to the questions of 
Germany, Austria, Japan and Korea. The WFTU organised a work¬ 
ing people’s campaign against the imperialist intervention in Indo- 

1 M. P. Tarasov, Results of the World Trade Union Congress in Paris, 
Moscow, 1945, p. 6 (in Russian), 

2 See Louis Saillant, La F.S.M. au service des travailleurs de tous les 
Pays, Paris, 1960, pp. 5-60. 








POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 39 


nesia, Indochina, Malaya, and Burma. The Federation’s represen¬ 
tatives in the United Nations’ bodies persistently urged to secure 
extensive social and political rights and a higher living standard 
for the working people, insisted on the eradication of race discrimi¬ 
nation and demanded freedom of trade union activity in all coun¬ 
tries. In the spring of 1947, on the initiative of the WFTU, an All- 
African Trade Union Conference was held in Dakar. The Conference 
promoted the mobilisation of the working people in African coun¬ 
tries to the struggle against colonialism. The WFTU worked towards 
the unity of the labour movement in all countries. 

That the WFTU and other progressive forces in the international 
labour movement should take an internationalist stand was of partic¬ 
ular importance in a context when the situation that took shape 
in the world after the war was increasingly highlighted by the 
growing national liberation movement. The independence attained 
by India, Burma, Indonesia and some other countries in the early 
post-war years dealt a heavy blow at imperialism’s colonial system 
and thus fostered the development of the workers’ movement in the 
metropolitan countries. 

PROBLEMS OF THE POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT 

An international situation conducive to the development of the lab¬ 
our movement in capitalist countries was ushered in by the defeat 
of fascism in the Second World War, in which the Soviet Union 
played a decisive role, iln addition to the above-mentioned ones, it 
featured other factors and phenomena which came to the fore after 
1947 and accounted for the change in the balance of world forces 
in subsequent years. The Soviet Union, whose economy had been 
ravaged by the nazi aggression, faced the task of restoring and 
developing its national economy. In those countries which opted for 
the socialist way of development, similar tasks were complicated by 
the resistance offered by the workers’ class enemy and, in many in¬ 
stances, by a relatively low level of economic development. Most of 
the national liberation movements were yet to accumulate experi¬ 
ence of struggle, formulate their ultimate goals and intermediate tasks 
and learn to identify their true allies and enemies no matter what 
the latter’s disguise was. As for the imperialist camp and, more 
specifically, the powers which had participated in the anti-nazi coa¬ 
lition, following the Second World War they were experiencing the 
results of state-monopoly regulation on an ever wider scale. More¬ 
over, the results of the war, their scope and potential effect on the 
capitalist system forced the imperialist countries’ ruling circles, which 
bad considerable reserves at their disposal, to feverishly seek—at 
times not without success—for the ways to counter the advancement 
of the forces of democracy and social progress. Despite the serious 






40 


CHAPTER 1 


setbacks suffered by the most aggressive factions of international 
imperialism, its principal forces had not been undermined. There¬ 
fore, it remained a powerful and insidious enemy. 

In all Western capitalist countries, even in those where the big 
monopoly capital had forfeited—due to its connections with nazism 
—some of its economic positions, the monopolies retained control 
over the main economic levers, international imperialist reaction 
could now rely on US capitalism which had grown stronger in the 
course of the war. The US capitalists’ support (not entirely selfless) 
to their class allies in West European countries turned into a highly 
important factor of the class struggle which unfolded in the first 
post-war decade. 

While in East European countries the presence of Soviet troops, 
which had delivered them from the nazi yoke, checked the reac¬ 
tion’s manoeuvring, in West European countries the presence of 
British and US troops contained the efforts of the working class and 
all the working people, and encouraged their opponents. Not infre¬ 
quently the allied forces overtly backed the reactionaries. The 
West-European left was constantly reminded of the British interven¬ 
tion in Greece undertaken in 1944 in order to support the monarch¬ 
ist reaction and counter the efforts of the Resistance movement to 
assume power in the country. 

The US, British and French occupation authorities, which in the 
early post-war years wielded power in West Germany, banned the 
activity of nazi organisations, restored bourgeois-democratic free¬ 
doms and took certain measures against the nazis and the monopo¬ 
lies associated with them. However, seeking to perpetuate the cap¬ 
italist system and fearing consistent democratisation which could 
pave the way for the popular masses’ initiatives and the consolida¬ 
tion of left-wing parties, they were half-hearted about these meas¬ 
ures, tried to impede the growth of the working-class activity, assist¬ 
ed in hampering the merger of the Communists and the Social Dem 
ocrats, and not infrequently openly banned mass demonstrations. 
As distinct from the situation in East Germany, in West Germany 
the big bourgeoisie, relying on the policy of the occupation authori¬ 
ties, succeeded in re-arranging its forces and retaining both its 
economic and political positions. Its representatives dominated the 
administrative bodies set up on the instructions of the occupation 
authorities. They made use, in their interests, of the sizable public 
sector which had emerged in the industry throughout the years. 
With the support of the occupation authorities major bourgeois par¬ 
ties were reconstituted. These authorities encouraged the West 
German bourgeoisie to emulate the vast political experience accu¬ 
mulated by the US, British and French capitalists in manoeuvring 
under the conditions of bourgeois democracy. 





POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 41 


The occupation authorities’ support to the local monopolistic 
bourgeoisie determined the course of the early post-war development 
of Japan and Italy. Subsequently, US policy-makers laid an increas¬ 
ing emphasis on economic “aid” to the war-ravaged countries. This 
aid was meant to bolster capitalism in West European countries. 

Apart from manipulating with the levers on which capitalism 
relied in the international scene (primarily, the power of US impe¬ 
rialism) the monopolistic bourgeoisie’s strategy stipulated taking 
advantage of the position which it managed to retain or gain in 
individual countries and which implied access to material wealth, 
i.e. economic leverage, and socio-political reserves. 

The war undoubtedly weakened the bourgeoisie, above all, in those 
countries where the machinery of its domination was ruined in 
the course of events or in those countries where the bourgeoisie 
came out against its own nation. However, in the countries where 
some of its contingents participated in the anti-fascist struggle (the 
bourgeois wing in the French Resistance movement may be recalled), 
the bourgeoisie secured for itself stronger positions. Objectively, the 
setting up of mass parties (mostly confessional by nature) with a 
predominantly petty-bourgeois membership also strengthened the 
monopoly capital’s positions. 

The monopolistic bourgeoisie took advantage of economic disrup¬ 
tion in the countries most severely hit by the war and by the nazi 
management of the economy. The working class had to bear the 
brunt of economic dislocation. Never since the Great Depression of 
1929, had the developed capitalist countries faced an equally dis¬ 
astrous unemployment rate. Under capitalism, the post-war recon¬ 
version of the industry could only result in a diminishing number 
of jobs. In many countries unemployment attained a higher level 
than in 1929-1933. Thus, in 1945, the number of the unemployed 
in Italy exceeded 2,000,000. 1 In Japan, with its millions of the 
unemployed, things changed for the worse even for those who had 
a job. In the United States, the relatively high wages and overtime 
payments established during the war became a thing of the past, 
and symptoms of growing unemployment started to manifest them¬ 
selves. By October 1945, the weekly wages in the US manufactur¬ 
ing industry dropped to 41 dollars, i.e. by nearly 13 per cent, as 
against 47.12 dollars in April 1945. At the same time, the cost of 
living had noticeably risen. 2 In Italy, the workers’ take-home 
wages in 1945 were only 26.7 per cent of the pre-war level. 3 In 
West Germany, even in 1946 the wages accounted for only 57 per- 


1 N. P. Romolova, op. cit., p. 258. 

2 Monthly Labor Review, Yol. 69, No. 2, February 1946, pp. 296, 304. 

3 Politica ed economia, No. 8, 1971, p. 73. 






42 


CHAPTER i 


cent of a worker’s family budget, with the rest covered by chance 
earnings, selling some of the family’s possessions, etc. 1 

The adverse effect of the economic dislocation (aggravated by 
speculation and, at times, by the bourgeoisie’s overt sabotage) on 
the domestic political situation had many aspects to it. First of all, 
the working people were forced to toil for subsistence and this left 
no spare time or physical possibility for them to go in for political 
activity, loosened social ties, fostered individualistic attitudes and 
sometimes led to their pauperisation. The reactionary forces sought 
to play up on economic difficulties to discredit the idea of democrat¬ 
ic transformation and undermine the unity of the anti-fascist 
forces. 

The hard struggle to overcome economic disruption, restore pro¬ 
duction and the national economy distracted the forces and the at¬ 
tention of democratic organisations, the left-wing parties and coali¬ 
tion governments, in some of which these parties participated in the 
post-war years. It stands to reason that in the course of this strug¬ 
gle the Communist parties sought not only to attain economic goals, 
but also to heighten the level of political consciousness of the work¬ 
ing class, to draw the public’s attention to its selfless efforts and 
voluntary sacrifice in the name of their countries’ restoration and 
to enhance its authority as society’s leading force. The ‘‘battle for 
production” organised by the French Communists is an immediate 
example. The communist ministers, in their effort to help restore 
the national economy, relied on the assistance of democratic mass 
organisations. By the spring of 1947, the French industry had re¬ 
gained its pre-war level and some of the branches had even exceed¬ 
ed it. A similar role in the economic restoration was played by the 
working class in Italy, Belgium, and some other countries. In an 
effort to contribute to economic restoration as much as possible, 
workers refrained from strikes and sought to improve their position 
by other means, specifically, through workers’ parties’ representatives 
in the governments. This accounts, to a degree, for a compara¬ 
tively small number of strikes in France and Italy in the period 
ending in May 1947. 

In the United States, the situation was different. The country 
retained its well-adjusted production mechanism and the transfer 
of the industry to a peaceful footing, with the worn-out plant re¬ 
placed by sophisticated equipment, did not take long. The working 
class’ struggle was unfolding against a favourable economic back¬ 
ground. The employers’ vigorous anti-labour, anti-trade-union poli¬ 
cies, as well as the weakening and subsequent elimination of the 
government control over prices brought about a string of strikes. 


1 V. P. Iyerusalimsky, op. cit., p. 123. 







POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 43 


The American trade unions took an active part in organising them. 
In the pre-war and war years their membership had grown and 
they had become stronger organisationally. In 1945, their right 
to collective bargaining was recognised officially. They urged furth¬ 
er measures to check speculation and inflation, fought against the 
wage-freeze and were prepared to resolutely uphold their demands. 

The campaign for higher wages, initiated in the key branches of 
the economy, swept the whole of the country. In 1945 and 1946, 
the number of strikes hit the record level of 4,750 and 4,985, res¬ 
pectively. 1 In 1946 alone, 4,600,000 workers went on strike and 
116 million man-days (three times more than over the war years), 
were lost. This resulted in an unprecedented rise in wages. How¬ 
ever, for all their mass character, the strikes were confined to eco¬ 
nomic demands. This reflected the contradictory nature of the US 
labour movement in the post-war years. 

Although the positions of the US labour unions grew stronger 
in the course of economic struggle, their political platform remained 
rather vague. Especially pernicious were the illusions about “na¬ 
tional unity”. Formulated by the monopolistic bourgeoisie’s ideolog¬ 
ists and quite popular with the leaders of the labour movement 
during the war, this idea implied conflictless co-operation between 
the workers and the employers in the name of the “nation’s su¬ 
preme interests”. 

The idea of “national unity” was spearheaded against the pro¬ 
gressive forces. The right wing and, to a considerable extent, the 
centrist elements among the trade union leaders, launched a cam¬ 
paign against “communist interference in union affairs”. 

The government’s and the employers’ onslaught against the work¬ 
ers and the Communists revealed the dual nature of the ruling cir¬ 
cles’ strategy aimed at defeating the communist and the progressive 
forces by isolating them from the labour movement and at subordin¬ 
ating the trade unions to a rigid state-monopoly control. Lacking 
internal unity, and blinded by anti-communism and the myth about 
“national unity”, the trade union federations failed to prevent an 
abrupt rightward shift of the government course and remained, for 
quite a long time, in the mainstream of the ruling circles’ policy. 

The labour movement in Western Europe, despite a qualitatively 
different background against which it unfolded, also displayed cer¬ 
tain weaknesses. 

Along with a number of political factors (such as the presence 
of British and US troops, internal contradictions plaguing national 
anti-fascist coalitions and the wavering position of the petty bour¬ 
geoisie), there existed economic difficulties which called for a clear- 
cut hierarc hy of priorities in advancing and implementing the left- 

1 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1948, p. 224. 






44 


CHAPTER 1 


wing programmes of democratic transformation. Thus, in Italy socio- 
economic reforms were put off until the time the constitution was 
adopted. Meanwhile, the period of imperialism’s discomfiture and 
retreat could not last infinitely. Having recovered from the shock 
and regrouped its forces, it launched an offensive. 

Not all the contingents of the working class, to say nothing of 
other strata of the working people, proved sufficiently prepared to 
operate under new conditions. To a certain extent, this could be 
accounted for by the changes in the composition of the working 
class which had occurred during the war. Despite the fact that in 
the war years it suffered heavier losses than any other social class, 
in 1945 its membership was much greater than before the war, run¬ 
ning to 130 million in 1945. 1 The “fresh blood”, with women ac¬ 
counting for a considerable share of it, largely came from the non¬ 
proletarian groups of the population. In some countries, among 
them West Germany and Great Britain, women workers accounted 
for nearly one-third of the employed. 

Of greater importance were the differences in the workers’ levels 
of political awareness and political experience. Prejudice and illu¬ 
sion generated by the capitalist realities and spread by such power¬ 
ful means of bourgeois ideological influence as the school or the 
mass media were further expressed through the efforts of bourgeois 
and social-reformist parties. They affected the working class, to say 
nothing of the petty bourgeoisie. Many of the illusions and attitudes 
hampering the working-class struggle stemmed from the develop¬ 
ments in the pre-war and war years. The very atmosphere of the 
upsurge in the democratic sentiment of the public, conducive to the 
left-wing forces’ offensive against the reaction, bred illusion. 

The feeling of “revolutionary impatience” became widespread 
among the proletarian and semi-proletarian groups, especially in 
those places where the war had caused especially bitter suffering 
and heavy losses. This feeling lay in the basis of the leftist attitudes 
which became widespread among some of the participants in the 
Resistance movement during the war and in the early post-war 
years. For instance, in Italy an influential Milan group of Social¬ 
ists headed by L. Basso held that the defeat of fascism would im¬ 
mediately lead to a socialist revolution. The leftist sentiment affect¬ 
ed certain Communists as well. The drive to precipitate events at 
any cost was fraught with the danger of the revolutionary-minded 
vanguard finding itself in an isolation from the broad masses. Those 
who advocated the idea of an immediate transfer from the victory 
over fascism to proletarian revolution and the establishment of so- 


1 Calculated from: Statistical Yearbook. 1949-1950, New York, 1950; 
Manpower Statistics. O.E.C.D., Paris, 19G1. 






POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 45 


cialism, who took a simplified approach to the ways of effecting 
this transfer did not take into account the international and domes¬ 
tic realities, first of all, the presence of British and US troops in 
the countries in question. 

Especially widespread was another, still vaguer and ideologically 
obscure version of the above-mentioned illusion. Inexperienced in 
politics, the masses believed that the sacrifices and privations of 
the war had not been futile and that the victory over fascism was 
bound to result in a new life, one without war, poverty and the 
exploitation of the working people, and that a new type of leaders, 
prepared to do away with the bourgeois domination and social ine¬ 
quality, would come to power. 

These happy illusions might have developed into a lasting drive 
to urge a better future and they could have equally well faded at 
the first contact with the grim post-war realities and generate dis¬ 
appointment in the outcome of the victory. This kind of hesitation 
was extremely typical of that contingent of the masses which fol¬ 
lowed the Social Democrats and other reformist parties. It largely ac¬ 
counts for the fact that in nearly all West European countries the 
early post-war period witnessed the electorate’s switch from the 
exuberant leftist sentiment to the right-wing attitude. 

Finally, the political inexperience of the masses, especially the 
non-proletarian groups, was not infrequently combined with apathy 
and tiredness caused by the war and privation and by the series 
of the large-scale developments of the 30s and 40s in the face of 
which man-in-the-street felt weak and unprotected. The church 
skilfully played up the sentiments of these backward groups of the 
masses. 

This accounts for the abrupt rise in the importance of the role 
and influence of the confessional—Catholic and Protestant—parties 
in the post-war period. These parties came to the fore in West 
Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and, for a time, in France 
(the MRP) and pushed into the background the traditional bour¬ 
geois parties with their characteristic lack of organisation, expe¬ 
rience, of everyday work among the masses and social programmes. 

The support many of the working people rendered to these par¬ 
ties signalled a step forward in comparison with their previous so¬ 
cial behaviour when they followed the lead of bourgeois forces. 
The social programmes advanced by the Catholic and Protestant 
parties to a different extent reflected the vague aspirations of the 
masses, their drive—albeit not quite clearly defined—for liberation 
and more just social make-up. They also reflected the masses’ aspi¬ 
ration for moral ideals which they could oppose to the callousness 
of the capitalists who had brought about the disaster of the war. 
The dominant class banked on the dual character of these parties 






46 


CHAPTER 1 


and their efforts to combine “renovation” with the preservation of 
the foundations of capitalism. 

When acting as the working-class allies in the offensive of 1945- 
1947, these parties displayed inconsistency and hesitancy and could 
not be relied on. The more far-reaching and decisive the democratic 
reforms effected in the post-war years, the greater and more overt 
their effort to oppose socialist transformation and to reduce the 
process of democratisation to traditional bourgeois democracy and 
the parliamentary system. The leaders of Christian Democratic par¬ 
ties, especially those who played the dominant role in governments, 
soon established close contacts with monopoly capital and largely 
turned into its political spokesmen. At the same time, these parties 
continued to rely on the middle strata of society and a certain part 
of the working class. 

This kind of the evolution experienced by the confessional parties 
was due to the anti-communist prejudice, the backwardness and 
passivity of the social forces they relied on, which were reluctant 
to come out in favour of advancement along the road of democratic 
transformation, either because of the unwillingness to engage, once 
again, in a strenuous struggle or because of the fear to forfeit its 
property. This kind of prejudice vanished under the impact of the 
Communist parties’ heroic struggle and especially the Soviet Union’s 
victories. However, some of the prejudices persisted and were used, 
in an increasingly overt manner, by the bourgeois press and the 
church which have recovered after the discomfiture they experienced 
in the early post-war days. It is to them that Winston Churchill, 
an idol of the bourgeoisie, appealed in his March 1946 Fulton 
speech. As a rule, the leaders of the Christian Democratic and other 
mass bourgeois parties were militant anti-communists who were 
compelled to agree, for tactical reasons, to a temporary co-operation 
with the Communist parties. 

The anti-communist sentiment started to make itself felt in Social 
Democratic parties, as well. The desire to put an end to the grow¬ 
ing influence of the Communist parties once more started to deter¬ 
mine the policies of certain groups within Socialist parties and even 
those of Socialist parties as a whole. In the years in question inter¬ 
national Social Democracy was ravaged by bitter covert and overt 
struggle between those who, persisting in their anti-communist pre¬ 
judice, considered capitalism—improved according to the reformist 
recipes—a lesser evil, and those who deemed it necessary to learn 
a lesson from the tragic experiences of the split in the working- 
class movement and made every effort to retain the unity forged in 
the struggle against fascism. Following the victory the promoters 
of the first tendency were in the minority. This was true not only 
of the Guiseppe Saragat group in the Italian Socialist Party, but 








POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 47 


also of the convinced opponents of the union with the Communists 
in the SPD and SFIO. Nonetheless, the more complicated and hitter 
was the struggle, the more profound were the changes in the situa¬ 
tion prevailing in most Social Democratic parties. 

The ruling class skilfully played on the intramural wrangling 
within Social Democracy, as well as on the latter’s indecisiveness 
and reformist illusions. According to the prevailing illusion, which 
became widespread shortly after the end of the war, there was a 
possibility of creating “a third force”, free of both the “extremes” 
of communism, and the “excesses” of bourgeois reaction. While 
professing the “defence of democracy” slogan, the overwhelming 
majority of the Social Democratic parties increasingly tended to 
make common cause with the centrist bourgeois parties on a whole 
range of issues. Sooner or later this was bound to lead to a break 
with the Communists. 

Meanwhile, a lot depended on the political line adopted by Social 
Democracy. The latter managed to retain the positions it enjoyed 
in the working-class movement in the developed capitalist countries 
in the early 20th century, when the Social Democrats were the sole 
political representative of the working class. In the period of the post¬ 
war democratic upsurge the Social Democratic parties were joined 
by many factory and office workers, as well as people from the 
petty-bourgeois strata whose attitudes were marked by vague sym¬ 
pathy for socialism, allegiance to democracy (whose class nature they 
did not understand) and illusions about the possibility of a pain¬ 
less transformation of society in keeping with the principles of so¬ 
cial justice. For these groups, whose political awareness only started 
to develop, the Communist parties were too radical. The Social 
Democracy’s reinforcement secured for itself firm positions in the 
political arena. Although during the war years the Communists had 
started to enjoy greater influence, it is only in France, Italy and 
Finland that after the war they surpassed the Socialists in terms 
of influence among the masses. The Social Democratic parties still 
enjoyed superiority over the Communist parties in the capitalist 
countries both in terms of their membership (8,000,000 as against 
3,500,000 in 1947) and in terms of votes cast for them (45,000,000 
as against 14,000,000). 

The Communist parties sought to retain the working-class unity 
of action attained in the struggle against fascism, regarding it as 
the main prerequisite for the working-class hegemony in the post¬ 
war political life in Western Europe and Japan. The unity of action 
of the workers’ parties was also important for the proletariat both 
from the point of view of winning over allies from among the mid¬ 
dle strata and in terms of heightening the political awareness of 
the masses so far inexperienced in politics or affected by various 






48 


CHAPTER 1 


prejudices and illusions. The unity of action was indispensable for 
rebuffing the counter-attacks launched by the imperialist reaction 
and for consolidating and multiplying the successes scored by the 
labour movement shortly after the war. 

However, almost everywhere in Western Europe the unity of the 
two trends in the labour movement and, even more so, the coalition 
of all anti-fascist parties proved to be comparatively fragile and 
failed to stand the test of the bitter and complicated post-war class 
struggles. 

The vulnerability of the anti-fascist forces could be largely ac¬ 
counted for by their strong dependence on the changes in the overall 
international situation. The global scope of the struggle against 
fascism, the vast scale of outstanding problems, the interrelation¬ 
ship between the events unfolding during the war and following 
the war in a large number of countries liberated from the fascist 
occupation predetermined the influence of the working-class struggle 
on the alignment of the world political forces. The existence of the 
international anti-nazi coalition conduced to the emergence of na¬ 
tional anti-fascist coalitions in various countries. This largely de¬ 
termined relationships within these coalitions, their unity, power 
and influence in individual countries in the period when relations 
among the Great Powers which had co-operated in the war against 
nazism were constructive and when the ruling circles in the United 
States and Great Britain were obliged to take into account the de¬ 
cisive role the Soviet Union had played in routing the armed forces 
of nazi Germany. The emergence of frictions in the relations be¬ 
tween the USSR and its Western allies and the cold war launched 
by the Western powers caused an about-face in the international 
situation prevailing in the late 1940s. 

The above illustrates the complex and contradictory nature of 
the situation obtaining in the early post-war years. The conditions 
which were unprecedentedly favourable for the development of the 
working-class movement combined with other factors reflecting the 
force of tradition and the multi-faceted character of the internation¬ 
al situation. The combination of the positive and negative factors 
made it difficult to get one’s bearings and complicated the tasks 
facing the vanguard of the working class. The spread of the dem¬ 
ocratic sentiment conduced to the growth of the Communist parties 
and the struggle for the working-class unity. However, the empha¬ 
sis on the solution of the nation-wide democratic problems enhanced 
the tendency towards obscuring the special role of the working class. 

The forging of the political line was also hampered by the abrupt¬ 
ness of the changes which occurred in 1944 and 1945. Those par¬ 
ties which were used to underground work now had to learn to 
function legally; former partisans had to work out constructive ap- 





POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 49 


proaches to the tasks facing their states. In this context miscalcula¬ 
tion and errors were inevitable. 

On the whole, the Communist parties succeeded in taking consist¬ 
ent militant and strategically correct positions and in resolutely 
upholding the interests of the working people. By participating in 
post-war governments and in coalitions formed by patriotic forces 
they contributed to the democratic reforms which determined the 
course of post-war development. The Communists’ experience of 
the struggle for unity as well as their experience of governmental 
activity was essential for the subsequent development of the work¬ 
ing-class movement in the capitalist countries. 

THE COMMUNIST PARTIES’ EFFORT TOWARDS RADICAL 
DEMOCRATIC TRANSFORMATION: 

RESULTS ACHIEVED IN THE EARLY POST-WAR YEARS 

The basis for the policy pursued by the Communist parties during 
the war and in the early post-war years was provided by the histor¬ 
ical decisions of the Seventh Congress of the Communist Interna¬ 
tional, which oriented the working class towards the struggle to 
defend democratic rights and freedoms and set up broad anti-fascist 
fronts and coalitions. 

During the war and in the early post-war years the international 
communist movement made great progress in forging its political 
line, especially as regards practical work in a new historical con¬ 
text. While at the time of the Seventh Congress the broad anti¬ 
fascist coalitions were set up for defence purposes and sought to 
protect the gains of the working class and all the working people 
against the onslaught of fascism, subsequently the policy of anti¬ 
fascist unity acquired an increasingly offensive character. After 
routing the military and political forces of the Axis powers, the 
popular unity was to serve the purposes of completing the struggle 
against fascism and eradicating it altogether. The policy of broad 
popular unity exceeding the limits of the unity of the working class 
and the poor peasantry, involving a sizable part of non-proletarian 
social strata, was increasingly regarded by the Communist parties 
as strategy, rather than temporary tactics, in the struggle to attain 
the principal goals of the labour movement in the situation which 
resulted from the rout of fascism and the changes in the internation¬ 
al balance of forces. 

The struggle for democratic rights and freedoms proclaimed by 
the Seventh Congress of the Communist International also acquired 
everlasting, strategic importance. Having rejected the leftist and 
sectarian proposals on the immediate transfer to socialist revolution, 
the Communist parties put forward the task of effecting radical dem- 


4 0515 















50 


CHAPTER 1 


ocratic renovation of society and creating a transitional system of 
progressive democracy. Although the transformations expected to 
lay the basis for progressive democracy were not purely socialist 
in nature, they could pave the way for subsequent successful work 
towards building socialism. Thereby Lenin’s idea of the development 
of the bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist revolution 
was further elaborated on. The Communist parties expected the pro¬ 
gressive democracy to develop into socialism in a relatively peaceful 
way. 

Thus, the Communists’ policy of the early post-war years incor¬ 
porated some of the principal elements of the strategy for advancing 
towards socialism through democratic struggle, which subsequently 
was to be further elaborated on the basis of the vast historical ex¬ 
perience accumulated by the international communist movement. 

The programmes for completing the struggle against fascism and 
laying the foundation of a democratic system under the leadership 
of the working class were mapped out at the Communist parties’ 
congresses, most of which were held shortly after the victory in 
the war, from June to December 1945. In the early post-war months 
these programmes helped the Communists in developed capitalist 
countries to find their bearings in the new circumstances and learn 
to take advantage of them. It stands to reason that the content of 
democratic transformations put high on the agenda in those days 
differed depending on the situation in individual countries. 

The June 1945 Congress of the French Communist Party advanced 
the slogan : “Place revival, democracy and unity at the service of 
France.” Many of the top-priority demands advanced by the Con¬ 
gress were consonant with the tasks of the “battle for production”, 
mentioned above. The demands to eradicate fascism had a bearing 
on the political and economic interests of that part of the financial 
oligarchy which had had close ties with the Vichy regime. They 
envisaged confiscation of the property of the traitors, purging the 
state apparatus from the collaborationists and bringing them to trial. 
They also envisaged far-reaching socio-economic reforms, such as 
nationalisation of some industries, improvement of the position of 
the working people, rendering aid to the peasantry and introducing 
a more just system of taxation. To help implement this strategy it 
was proposed to take measures to expand and consolidate political 
democracy, for instance, hold elections to the National Assembly 
which was to work out a new constitution and create a stable re¬ 
gime of a democratic republic, and to form a government made up 
of the true representatives of the people. The Congress stressed that 
the country’s renaissance called for the unity of and support from 
the entire nation. 1 


1 Histoire da Parti communiste frangais, op. cit., pp. 458-474. 







POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 51 


The FCP pointed out that for the time being there could be no 
question of socialism. The Party’s leadership headed by Maurice 
Thorez urged to establish “new, popular democracy” in France. 
This was to be attained by co-operation between all progressive 
forces, with the leading role played by the working class. 

Italy, due to its relative social and political backwardness, faced 
a still greater number of outstanding political tasks of democratic 
character than France. The leadership of the Italian Communist 
Party, headed by Palmiro Togliatti, believed that the time for a 
direct struggle to establish the workers’ power was not ripe. There¬ 
fore, they called upon the workers to join efforts with all the pro¬ 
gressive forces in the fight to eliminate the vestiges of fascism, 
abolish monarchy, convene a Constituent Assembly and set up 
“progressive democracy” which would pave the way for subsequent 
advancement towards socialism. This purpose was to be served by 
the efforts to implement the Communists’ demands to preserve and 
consolidate committees for national liberation (democratic self- 
government centres formed by the anti-fascist parties), set up man¬ 
agement councils at enterprises, purge the state bodies from fas¬ 
cists, nationalise monopolies and banks, establish people’s control 
over public institutions and the economy, effect an agrarian reform 
through redeeming landowners’ land and handing it over to farm- 
labourers’ and peasants’ co-operatives, improving the terms of land 
lease, etc. 

Paramount importance was attached to political demands. The 
Communists sought to rally the entire people in the campaign to 
implement them and to preserve and strengthen the anti-fascist 
parties’ bloc before launching the struggle to urge the solution of 
socio-economic problems. The line of progressive democracy was 
mapped out by the ICP Congress held at the end of 1945. 

Similar programmes were elaborated by the Communist parties in 
the countries liberated from fascist or military dictatorships. These 
programmes differed in the scope and specific content of democratic 
tasks they formulated. The Japanese Communist Party set itself the 
task of fighting to abolish the monarchy, effect an agrarian reform, 
establish workers’ control over production, and urge a constitution 
enabling the working people to exercise their democratic rights. 
Finland’s Communists sought to nationalise some of the industries, 
carry out a democratic agrarian reform, purge the state machinery 
from reactionary elements, increase workers’ wages and take other 
measures in the interests of the people. The Communist Party of 
Belgium called for the nationalisation of coal mines, electric pow¬ 
er stations and banks. All this could be effected only through a 
persistent struggle, preserving and consolidating the unity of the 
Working class and securing for it the support of non-proletarian 


4 * 









CHAPTER 1 


52 


masses. Many of the demands advanced by the Communists were 
supported by Social Democrats, trade unionists and progressive in¬ 
tellectuals. Now, in contradistinction to the previous period, the 
working class could make a wide use of legal forms of struggle, 
relying on democratic freedoms and institutions. Moreover, in con¬ 
tradistinction to both the preceding and the subsequent historical 
periods of the working-class movement, in a number of countries it 
was possible to combine mass struggles with the Communists’ gov¬ 
ernmental activity. The years of 1945-1947 were marked by the 
working class’ major successes m social, economic and political 
areas and by the partial implementation of the wide programme of 
demands mapped out by the Communist parties. The scope of these 
successes in individual countries was largely determined by the com¬ 
bination of the above-mentioned favourable and unfavourable fac¬ 
tors. 

The greatest successes were scored by the working people in those 
countries where the Communist parties were the strongest (France 
and Italy), where the Resistance movement acquired an especially 
wide scale during the war and where the post-war democratic up¬ 
surge was therefore especially powerful. In these countries the mo¬ 
nopoly capital managed to preserve its domination at the cost of 
a bitter struggle and serious compromise. 

In most of the smaller West European countries the post-war 
democratic upsurge was somewhat less impressive. This can be ac¬ 
counted for by the strong influence of social-reformist trends on 
the working class here and the narrower scale of the Resistance 
movement. It is no accident that in Denmark and Norway the Com¬ 
munists were removed from the governments much earlier (by the 
end of 1945) than in France and Italy. In the Netherlands and 
Sweden (which did not participate in the war), the Communists 
were not represented in the government at all. It is only in Belgium 
and Austria that the Communists retained seats in the government 
up to 1947. However, their actual influence was comparatively in¬ 
significant. Nonetheless, in these countries as well, the working class 
succeded in gaining considerable concessions. Less impressive were 
the working class’ victories (scored primarily in the purely material 
sphere) in Canada, Australia and New Zealand which were less af¬ 
fected by the democratic upsurge caused by the utter defeat of the 
Axis powers. 

The working class in the West European countries was not satis¬ 
fied with the mere restoration of democratic freedoms following the 
rout of fascist regimes. It obtained, and not without success, the 
democratisation of political life. 

The new constitutions adopted in some countries following their 
liberation consolidated the changes that had taken place in political 





POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 53 


life. The drafting and adoption of constitutions was usually accom¬ 
panied by a bitter struggle. For instance, in France, the first draft 
of the constitution, which was adopted by the left majority of the 
Constituent Assembly and proclaimed “the people's supreme, single 
and indivisible, unshakable and inalienable power. . ., established— 
on the voluntary basis—an alliance with the peoples in the overseas 
territories. . ., secured for the people the broadest possible econom¬ 
ic and social rights”, 1 was rejected at a referendum by an insigni¬ 
ficant majority of votes after a bitter campaign launched by the 
bourgeoisie to intimidate the philistines with “the communist 
threat”. In the autumn of 1946 a new text of the constitution was 
drafted and approved by a referendum as a result of a compromise 
between the workers and the bourgeois parties. Despite certain con¬ 
cessions to the bourgeoisie and the petty owners, the constitution 
contained the most important provisions of the first draft, was more 
democratic than the Constitution of the Third Republic and thus 
signalled a major victory of the working class. 

The question of the state system to be adopted by Italy aroused 
violent controversy. The monarchists sought to win over to their 
side the politically inexperienced groups of the population, especial¬ 
ly, women, who had never taken part in the polls before. At a re¬ 
ferendum on the problem of the state system held on June 2, 1946, 
12,700,000 voters came out in favour of a republic and 10,700,000 
voted for a monarchy. The monarchists tried to call in question and 
to ignore the will of the majority. Their attempts were rebuffed 
by the mass protests organised by the supporters of the republic. 
Italy became a republic. The main provisions of its constitution 
were worked out by the Constituent Assembly—with the active par¬ 
ticipation of its Communist faction—in the period when the left- 
wing parties still had seats in the government and was finally en¬ 
dorsed in December 1947. It was perhaps the most democratic con¬ 
stitution in the bourgeois world. Italy was proclaimed “a republic 
based on labour”, with a two-chamber parliament, universal suffrage 
and proportional representation. The constitution envisaged broad 
regional autonomy and the right of the working people to participate 
in the administration of the state through their political and trade 
union organisations. It recognised the citizens’ right to work and 
social security and equality between man and woman, and proclaimed 
broad democratic freedoms. Although the constitution guaranteed 
private property, it recognised the possibility of its being limited 
and nationalised (this covered the possibility of alienating land 
property) and declared the need for the working people’s involve¬ 
ment in the management of production. However, the realisation of 
these possibilities depended on the balance of political forces in the 


1 Maurice Tliorez, Fils da peuple, Paris, 1949, p. 213. 






54 


CHAPTER 1 


country and on the working people’s activity, organisation and po¬ 
litical awareness. 

Despite its guaranteeing private ownership and securing exten¬ 
sive rights lor the Catholic Church, the 1947 constitution consolidat¬ 
ed the positions of the working class. 

While in Italy the left succeeded in the establishment of a re¬ 
public, in Japan, the constitution worked out under the control of 
the US occupation authorities and enforced in May 1947, preserved 
the monarchy. Admittedly, the emperor was deprived of actual pow¬ 
er and turned into a “symbol of national unity”. The constitution 
proclaimed the sovereignty of the people and democratic freedoms, 
and broadened parliamentary powers. Significantly, the constitution 
proclaimed Japan’s refusal to take part in wars and maintain armed 
forces. The Soviet Union’s participation in the governing and super¬ 
vising bodies set up by the victorious countries in Japan was a ma¬ 
jor factor in the democratisation of the country in the early post¬ 
war years. 

Monarchies were preserved in a number of smaller West European 
countries, too. In Belgium, however, mass protests prevented the 
king, who had compromised himself by collaborating with the nazis, 
from returning to the country. In Iceland, which during the war 
proclaimed its independence of Denmark, a republic was established. 

The working class and its parties devoted great attention to dem¬ 
ocratic transformation in the socio-economic sphere. The drive to 
undermine the power of monopolies, the mainstay of fascism, ex¬ 
plains why in these years the slogan of nationalisation, advanced 
not only by the Communists, but also by some Social Democratic 
and even bourgeois reformist circles, was so popular. 

In Austria, where in 1945 enterprises were confiscated from their 
former owners—German monopolies and Hitlerites’ stooges—nation¬ 
alisation covered the key branches of the economy. In Italy, the 
enterprises which had belonged to Germans or to Mussolini’s myr¬ 
midons were placed under the control of the state. In France, the 
working class succeeded in carrying out the nationalisation of 
mines, railways, five major banks, electric power and gas-producing 
enterprises, with compensation paid out to the owners. The power¬ 
ful public sector which was thus formed accounted for more than 
20 per cent of the national industrial output. Workers’ representa¬ 
tives were included in the management of many enterprises. The 
working class was facing good prospects for exerting actual influ¬ 
ence on the development of the public sector. However, in subsequent 
years due to the removal of communist ministers from the govern¬ 
ment and the split in the workers’ movement these prospects waned. 

In Great Britain, the Labour government carried out a rather 
extensive nationalisation programme. The Bank of England, the 







POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 55 


coal industry, the electric power and gas industries, as well as the 
air, rail, motor, and water (inland and cabotage) transport and part 
of the municipal transport were nationalised. Later, the nationalisa¬ 
tion programme covered the major metallurgical enterprises. Nation¬ 
alisation could have served as a means of radically restructuring 
the economy and redistributing the national income in the interest 
of the working people. However, the Labour government carried out 
the nationalisation programme in such a way that it primarily pro¬ 
moted the interests of the bourgeoisie. The government granted the 
former owners of nationalised enterprises inordinately high com¬ 
pensation. The expenditure that involved compensation payments and 
the modernisation of the nationalised enterprises taxed the state bud¬ 
get or, rather, the working people. The workers were not admitted to 
the management of the nationalised enterprises, neither was a work¬ 
ers’ control system introduced. In most cases, former owners or 
specialists of their choice were appointed managers of the national¬ 
ised enterprises. The nationalised industries supplied private monop¬ 
oly capitalists with cheap metal, energy and transport. The nation¬ 
alised enterprises which employed about 20 per cent of all the 
industrial and office workers in the country, constituted the state- 
monopoly sector. 

At the same time, even the bourgeois-style nationalisation marked 
a step forward. It generated new contradictions within the dominant 
class (between the monopolies and the state enterprise managers), 
helped to disprove the myth about the indispensability of private 
capitalist methods of economic management (this explains why the 
bourgeoisie vehemently opposed some of the measures involved in 
nationalisation and subsequently succeeded in getting partial dena¬ 
tionalisation) and opened before the working class prospects for 
struggle to establish democratic control over production. 

Various bodies made up of workers’ representatives and expected 
to restrict the arbitrary rule of the capitalists and the managers 
appointed by the latter, to uphold the workers’ rights as laid down 
in labour legislation and collective agreements, to organise workers’ 
leisure, etc. were established and reestablished at industrial enter¬ 
prises in many countries. In those years, production committees in 
Finland, production councils in West Germany and management 
councils in Italy not infrequently interfered with the management 
of enterprises and had a great role to play throughout the period 
of economic reconstruction. In Italy, trade unions won the right to 
supervise the matters of hiring and dismissing workers. In all coun¬ 
tries, workers campaigned to expand the rights of the workers’ bod¬ 
ies set up at the enterprises. This campaign met with the ferocious 
resistance of the employers who did not want to forfeit their power 
in the sphere of production. As a rule, a few years later the resist- 





56 


CHAPTER 1 


ance they offered resulted in frustrating the efforts to maintain 
workers’ control over production and restricting—either de facto or 
de jure —the rights of the workers’ bodies. In Italy, for instance, 
the management councils were not registered by legislation. Some 
years later they were dissolved. Only the so-called inner commis¬ 
sions, whose powers were extremely limited, were preserved. The 
capitalists were no longer in a position to fully eliminate the work¬ 
ers’ representative bodies operative at enterprises. 

By relying on mass organisations, the working class scored, in 
the first post-war years, a number of other successes in the social 
area, such as higher wages (which did not, however, compensate for 
the losses caused by inflation), a shorter working day, better work¬ 
ing conditions, greater labour safety, improved social security and 
social insurance systems, larger sums allocated to education and 
health care, a more progressive system of taxation, a partial agrar¬ 
ian reform, etc. 

In France, for instance, a law guaranteeing equal pay for men 
and women was passed. The right to temporary and permanent dis¬ 
ablement and old age benefits now covered all hired workers. Pen¬ 
sions paid to the war veterans were increased 3.5 times, benefits 
granted to families with many children grew by 85 per cent, and 
housing construction projects were expanded. The minimum untax- 
able wages rose from 22,000 to 60,000 francs. Collective bargain¬ 
ing between workers and employers became compulsory. Land lease 
rules were revised in favour of the peasants. 

In Italy, a sliding scale of wages (providing for increases to com¬ 
pensate for the growth in prices), improved pension schemes and 
paid leaves were introduced. Part of the untilled big landowners’ 
lands was handed over to the peasants and the share of the harvest 
received by the share croppers was increased. 

The law on social insurance, adopted in Belgium in 1947, provid¬ 
ed for old age, sickness, and disablement benefits. In Belgium and 
the Netherlands, the workers were granted annual two-week paid 
leaves. 

In Finland, legislation ensured an eight-hour working day, paid 
leaves, withdrawal of surplus land from big landowners and allot¬ 
ting land to the 100,000 needy. 

In Britain, the introduction of free medical care was the most 
important post-war achievement of the working class. The restric¬ 
tions imposed on trade union rights in 1927 were repealed, the so¬ 
cial insurance system was improved so as to cover all categories of 
the working people, benefits were increased (in particular, children- 
support benefits were granted after the birth of the second child), 
retirement age was lowered to 65 for men and 60 for women. Pro¬ 
gressive changes were effected in the secondary educational system. 




POST-AVAR LABOUR MOA^EMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 57 


In the Scandinavian countries the early post-war years saw the 
reduction in taxes imposed on low-income categories of people, a 
slight increase in taxes imposed on the bourgeoisie, establishment 
of a three-week-long paid leave and introduction of annual children- 
support benefits and general compulsory insurance. 

In Japan, the agrarian reform launched in 1947 provided for the 
redemption of the leased landowners’ land by the peasants and for 
a considerable softening of the terms of lease. Among the highlights 
of the early post-war years Avas the adoption of mere progressive 
labour legislation, the introduction of an eight-hour working day 
and unemployment insurance, the proclamation of the freedom of 
trade union activity and the replacement of the old militarist-monar¬ 
chic educational system by a bourgeois-democratic one. 

All these transformations Avere of a general democratic character 
and did not undermine the mainstays of the capitalist system. Hoav- 
ever, they were conducive to the working-class struggle and had a 
positive effect on socio-economic development. They compelled the 
monopoly capital to abandon the most brutal methods of domination 
and exploitation and forced it, in subsequent years, to give heed 
to the strength of its class antagonist. The monopolistic bourgeoisie 
gradually realised that it Avould be able to retain power only at the 
cost of further socio-economic concessions in the context of the 
growing importance of the state. Without the assistance of the state, 
without its taking possession of the key levers of economic manage¬ 
ment, it was impossible to succeed in social manoeuvring and 
maintain sufficiently high development rates which could compen¬ 
sate for the concessions the monopolistic bourgeoisie was forced to 
agree to. 

Its class instinct helped the monopolistic bourgeoisie to under¬ 
stand that the reforms effected in 1945-1947 were dangerous for cap¬ 
italism only inasmuch as they Avere carried out in the context of 
a change in the balance of forces in favour of the working class. 
Therefore, the monopolistic bourgeoisie tried to redress the balance. 
As early as the immediate post-Avar months the ruling classes in 
West European countries, supported by the British and US occupa¬ 
tion authorities, did everything they could to dismantle the military 
and political structure of the Resistance movement. For instance, 
the French internal army, which relied on the front-rank contin¬ 
gents of working people, Avas disbanded, the patriotic militia Avas 
disarmed, the people’s courts were liquidated and the national liber¬ 
ation committees were restricted in their activity. In Italy, under 
the pressure of the occupation authorities the partisan army Avas dis¬ 
banded, the national liberation committees Avere continuously ham¬ 
pered in exercising their rights and then were abolished altogether, 
just like in France. HoAvever, the power of the left-Aving forces Avas 






58 


CHAPTER i 


rooted not only in the authority and organisational structure of the 
Resistance movement, but also in the unity of action of the work¬ 
ers’ parties and the unity of anti-fascist coalitions. Therefore, enor¬ 
mous efforts were made to undermine this unity. The advocates of 
the break with the Communists in Social Democratic and other mass 
parties enjoyed the vigorous assistance and support of the imperial¬ 
ist quarters. 

In their post-war evolution the West European Social Democratic 
parties traversed a path from undermining the alliance with the 
Communists through rejecting any co-operation with them to overt 
anti-communism. In the late 1940s, only the Italian Socialist Party 
continued to co-operate with the Communists. However, the bitter 
wrangling between the left and the right wings of the ISP led to 
the splits of 1947 and 1949. The ISP’s authority among the con¬ 
stituents waned (while in 1946 it had 20.7 per cent of the votes, 
in 1953 it won only 12.7 per cent of them). 

It goes without saying that the reasons for further worsening of 
relations between the Communists and the Social Democrats cannot 
be reduced to imperialist interference, although it certainly had a 
most adverse effect. The serious factors that conduced to the split 
emerged within the workers’ movement itself. Among them were 
considerable differences in the levels of political awareness of var¬ 
ious contingents of the working class, which were especially vivid 
in the ideological sphere. One should also mention ideological and 
political hegemony of the petty bourgeoisie over the proletariat in 
some Social Democratic parties ; the difference in organisational prin¬ 
ciples of the Communist and the Social Democratic parties ; serious 
controversies as regards the priority of transformations to be effected, 
the attitude to democracy, the foreign-policy orientation and the as¬ 
sessment to be given to the Soviet Union’s experience. Lastly, one 
should mention the long-standing tradition of mutual mistrust which 
was not eradicated during the short period of co-operation. 

Seeking to promote the isolation of the Social Democrats, their 
leaders were gradually preparing for the reconstitution of the So¬ 
cialist International. It is no accident that the very idea of restoring 
the International was advanced by the British Labour Party which, 
unlike most Social Democratic parties, recognised the need for 
uniting with the USSR in the struggle against fascism, but flatly 
refused to co-operate with the Communists. In November 1947, the 
international Social Democratic conference founded the Committee 
of International Socialist Conference (COMISCO). The COMISCO 
instructed a standing committee, headed by Morgan Phillips, a prom¬ 
inent Labourite, and Julius Braunthal, a well-known Austrian 
Social Democrat, to launch preparations for setting up the Socialist 
International. 








POST-WAR LABOUR MOVEMENT IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES (1945-1947) 59 


The Communists sought to preserve the unity of the working 
people’s class and political forces forged in the struggle against 
fascism. However, it was increasingly difficult to reach this goal. 
Compelled to choose between maintaining an alliance with the Com¬ 
munists and retaining the foundations of the existing system 
(“Western democracy”), the social-reformist parties gravitated to¬ 
wards ever closer co-operation with the forces of capitalism. The 
intensification of the cold war contributed to the worsening of rela¬ 
tions between the Communists and the Social Democrats in capital¬ 
ist countries. 

All this impeded the advancement of the working class in capi¬ 
talist countries, launched in the circumstances ushered in by the 
victory over fascism, hampered the furthering of democratic trans¬ 
formations initiated shortly after the war, and helped the dominant 
classes to regroup their forces and, upon resuming control over the 
situation, mount an onslaught on the positions gained by the labour 
movement. 

Nonetheless, the early post-war period (1945-1947) has gone 
down in the history of developed capitalist countries as a period 
marked by the noticeable strengthening of the working class’ power, 
the workers’ advancement and new gains. The successes scored in 
1945-1947 served as a starting point for the subsequent development 
of the working-class movement and were thus comparable to the 
victories won in the period of the revolutionary upsurge of 1918- 
1923, which gave an impetus to the development of the movement 
between the two world wars. 

The working class’ advancement did not develop in a similar man¬ 
ner in all countries. The greatest successes were scored by the work¬ 
ers in France and Italy. The role played by the working class in the 
struggle for liberation and the position it had taken by the time of 
liberation ensured its considerable progress. In Germany and Japan, 
the post-war efforts of the workers were primarily focused on restor¬ 
ing workers’ organisations. Over a short period of time the workers 
in these countries traversed a long road and scored certain suc¬ 
cesses; however, the latter were not comparable to the victories won 
by the workers in Italy and France. In West Germany, the disorien¬ 
tation of the great masses of the working class and the severance 
of its revolutionary traditions as a result of the nazi terror and dem¬ 
agogy had a lasting effect. However, here, too, unmistakable signs 
of a democratic upsurge and the growth in the authority of the 
Communists and consistent anti-fascists were observed. British work¬ 
ers made appreciable progress as well. More complicated was the 
situation in the United States, where the working class continued 
to retain its allegiance to the bourgeois parties, its struggle being 
confined to purely economic demands. 





60 


CHAPTER 1 


The working class failed to consolidate all the achievements gained 
in the early post-war years. They could only have been retained 
and consolidated by a continuous advancement towards radical dem¬ 
ocratic transformation affecting the mainstays of the existing sys¬ 
tem. The reaction's counter-offensive prevented this. However, the 
struggle waged by the working people in the early post-war years 
predetermined the subsequent development of capitalist countries 
in Western Europe and elsewhere. The world socialism’s influence 
on the class struggle in these countries was dramatically enhanced. 
The public and political activity of the broadest working masses, 
above all, the working class, which had grown more politically con¬ 
scious and organised, acquired a new dimension. Socialist ideals 
became even more popular within the labour movement. 










Chapter 2 

THE WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT 
AND THE COLD WAR 

(THE LATE 1940s AND THE FIRST HALF OF THE 1950s) 


The years of 1947-1948 saw the beginning of a more difficult pe¬ 
riod in the history of the working-class movement in developed 
capitalist countries. A large-scale, almost all-out working-class 
offensive gradually gave way to stubborn class battles when every 
step forward called for an enormous effort. It was also a period of 
partial retreats, setbacks and of the division and regrouping of for¬ 
ces. The proletariat in these countries faced a counter-offensive laun¬ 
ched by international reaction which in a large measure manifested 
itself in the cold war against the socialist countries. 

THE BEGINNING OF THE COLD WAR 
AND THE GROWING COMPLEXITY 
OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONDITIONS 
OF THE WORKING-CLASS STRUGGLE 

The greatest difficulties experienced by the labour movement in 
the late 40s and the early 50s were ushered in by the abrupt change 
for the worse in the international situation. The change was effect¬ 
ed by the vigorous effort of the reactionary forces which by that 
time had become more active in the imperialist world, above all in 
the United States. The US and British ruling circles had in fact 
repudiated the agreements and understandings reached during the 
war and embarked on the path of cold war, of direct military con¬ 
frontation with the socialist countries and the national liberation 
movement. US imperialism organised and led the onslaught of the 
reactionary and anti-communist forces both within the capitalist 
system and in the world arena as a whole, thus assuming the role 
of a “world policeman”. 

The US role in the post-war world, including the imperialist camp, 
was predetermined by a number of factors. The USA emerged from 
the war with its military and economic potentials strengthened. In 





62 


CHAPTER 2 


1946, it accounted for more than 50 per cent of the capitalist 
world’s output. Having amassed enormous financial resources and 
become superior to all other imperialist powers, the United States 
was in a position to impose its will on the entire capitalist world. 
The US ruling quarters had long been striving after this role. 

That the United States had been a bastion of anti-communism 
since pre-war times (it should be recalled, for instance, that it was 
the last of the imperialist powers to grant diplomatic recognition 
to the USSR) could be largely accounted for by the lack of a strong 
and viable left-wing domestic alternative to the bourgeois policy. As 
for the early post-war years, the deep-rooted anti-communist tenden¬ 
cies in the US policy were intentionally encouraged by the ruling 
circles of the West European countries, above all Great Britain 
and France, which thereby hoped to make American might promote 
the European capitalists’ interests both in Europe and elsewhere 
and, in particular, to preserve their positions in the colonies on the 
plea of fighting “communist penetration” there. 

The way the Second World War ended pushed the inter-imperial¬ 
ist contradictions into the background and made the ruling classes 
in all imperialist countries focus on defending their own class in¬ 
terests. They were thus objectively faced with the following tasks— 
to find practical ways of countering socialism whose potentialities 
and political authority had considerably grown; to neutralise the 
successes scored by the working class and all the democratic forces 
in capitalist countries and make them ‘Toll back”; to prevent the 
colonialist system from collapsing; to strengthen those component 
parts of the capitalist system which were hardest hit by the econom¬ 
ic, political and other consequences of the Second World War. 

Imperialism failed to forestall the victory of people’s democratic 
revolutions in the countries of Central and South-East Europe. 
These revolutions opened up for them vast possibilities of develop¬ 
ing along the lines of democracy and socialism. By 1949, the ex¬ 
pansion of political co-operation and relations based on fraternal 
mutual assistance between these countries and the Soviet Union 
had laid the stage for organising broader economic co-operation 
among the socialist countries in Europe. In 1949 the Council for 
Mutual Economic Assistance was set up. The change in the balance 
of world forces in favour of socialism was also promoted by the 
victory of the popular revolution in China and the proclamation 
of the People’s Republic of China in the autumn of 1949. The vic¬ 
torious Chinese revolution dealt a heavy blow at imperialism’s po¬ 
sitions in Asia and accelerated the growth of the national libera¬ 
tion movement on the Asian continent. The development of North 
Vietnam and North Korea along socialist lines continued. For the 
first time in history there emerged inter-state relations of a new. 










WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


G3 


socialist type, based on the principles of proletarian internationalism. 

However, having suffered serious setbacks in some areas impe¬ 
rialism was determined to get back what it had lost in other areas. 
In 1947, the Truman Doctrine was proclaimed. It was tantamount 
to an overt declaration of the United States’ right to interfere in 
the affairs of other states at its own discretion and a declaration of 
war on the national liberation and patriotic movements. Almost sim¬ 
ultaneously, the United States set forth the “containment of com¬ 
munism’' doctrine which was meant to underlie, above all, US-So¬ 
viet relations, and the Marshall Plan which covered inter-imperial¬ 
ist relations. The authors of the “containment” doctrine proceeded 
from a complete negation of the possibility and expediency of peace¬ 
ful coexistence and post-war co-operation among the states with 
the opposed social systems. They opted for the position-of-strength 
policy vis-a-vis the USSR and other socialist states, which implied 
interference in their internal affairs and local wars against socialist 
countries and the advanced contingents of the national liberation 
movements. 

There were different aims behind the Marshall Plan. Nonetheless, 
they were directly linked to the US previous general strategic goals. 
The implementation of this plan was expected, first, to stabilise 
European capitalism by restoring the economic, political and insti¬ 
tutional structures destroyed or undermined during the war, and, 
second, to consolidate the reactionary imperialist forces in West Eu¬ 
ropean capitalist countries and unite them under US leadership. 
That was to secure for the United States actual domination over 
the world capitalist system and to help it to mobilise the latter’s 
resources to the struggle against socialism, democracy and progress 
in those areas and in those forms which would best promote the 
interests of the US ruling circles. 

Moreover, the early post-war years (up to the 1951-1952 crisis) 
were marked by a relatively rapid economic growth in capitalist 
countries, ensured by restoring the war-ravaged economies, renewing 
fixed assets, meeting deferred demands and, to a certain extent, 
by effecting government projects aimed at accelerating economic 
development. As early as the late 40s, industrial output in capitalist 
countries reached the pre-war level, between 1948 and 1955 it grew 
by nearly 50 per cent. This placed at the disposal of imperialism 
material resources sufficient to cope with its national and internation¬ 
al tasks, on the one hand, and consolidated the positions of the 
ruling circles and enabled them to bank on the rise in the working 
people’s living conditions by presenting them as the result of class 
collaboration, on the other. The monopolists relied on higher-income 
groups as a breeding ground for the spread of anti-communist psy¬ 
chosis. It is to these politically inexperienced social groups that the 







64 


CHAPTER 2 


propaganda allegations about the external and internal “communist 
threat” looming over the common people in capitalist countries 
were addressed. For a number of reasons, such propaganda became 
especially widespread in the United States. 

As the United States turned into the main material and leading 
force of capitalism, the latter’s economic consolidation was bolstered 
by expanding military co-operation among capitalist countries. The 
so-called Western European Union, based on the Brussels Treaty of 
March 1948, was essentially a military bloc uniting Great Britain, 
France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. The Western 
European Union laid the stage for setting up, in April 1949, a broad¬ 
er military-political bloc, NATO. The latter initially united 12 
capitalist countries led by the United States. The NATO never 
concealed its anti-Soviet, anti-communist orientation. It also set 
itself the tasks of fighting against the growing national liberation 
movement and suppressing progressive, democratic, anti-monopoly 
forces in capitalist countries. The SEATO, CENTO and other impe¬ 
rialist blocs, set up later, were modelled after the NATO. In the 
early 50s, the United States signed treaties of “mutual security” 
with a number of states in Western Europe and Asia. These treaties 
supplemented the previously elaborated measures designed to ensure 
US-Brilish-Canadian and inter-American military co-operation. This 
crowned the formation of the main structure of imperialist aggres¬ 
sive blocs. The United States established itself as a political, eco¬ 
nomic and military centre of imperialism. 

Thus, a foundation for the principal long-term imperialist poli¬ 
cies was laid m 1947-1949. These policies were to be featured by 
the resort to military force and power methods in relations with the 
socialist system and the national liberation movement; by extreme¬ 
ly reactionary and aggressive anti-communism underlying the im¬ 
perialist governments’ domestic and foreign activities, and by the in¬ 
ordinately important role played by the United States in elaborating 
and implementing them. The doctrine of containment was first re¬ 
placed by the doctrine of “liberation” and then, by the doctrine of 
“rolling back”. The United States unleashed a war in Korea and 
started to expand its interference in Indochina. This inevitably ag¬ 
gravated the cold war and built up international tensions. 

The cold war policy, from its very inception, had a “domestic” 
aspect to which the ruling circles in imperialist states at times 
attached even greater importance than to its foreign aspect. Thus, 
the allegations about the Soviet, Soviet-Chinese or world commun¬ 
ist threat were directed against the Communist and Workers’ par¬ 
ties in capitalist countries, too. Imperialist propaganda pictured 
the Communists in these countries as foreign or “Moscow’s agents” 
who were allegedly acting to the detriment of their own peoples. 







WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


65 


Moreover, it associated all the left-wing and democratic forces in 
capitalist countries, especially their leaders and activists, with the 
Communists, so that the latter and the former were persecuted, and 
in some countries subjected to police repression. 

The reactionary forces managed to involve in the struggle against 
the Communists those mass parties which relied on the middle stra¬ 
ta and some part of the working people and which in 1945 and 
1946 campaigned for democracy and were known as anti-fascist. 
Among them were Catholic parties in Italy, France and other coun¬ 
tries. The middle strata of the population who supported these par¬ 
ties opposed fascism; however, they feared socialist transformation. 
Already in the early post-war years they were largely affected by 
bourgeois propaganda according to which further democratic trans¬ 
formation of society was bound to lead to repudiation of private 
ownership, to violence, dictatorship and the suppression of free¬ 
doms. Somewhat later, the Communists were openly identified with 
these evils and the proprietors’ blind hatred came down on them. 
Moreover, in 1947-1948, many Social Democratic leaders refused 
to support the Communist parties’ campaigns urging to effect radical 
socio-economic transformations and satisfy the working people’s 
demands. They preferred to strike an alliance with bourgeois par¬ 
ties on a plea of the growing “danger from without” and the need 
to “defend democracy”. 

However, the international situation had many aspects to it. The 
general balance of forces in the world was primarily determined by 
such factors as the growing might of the Soviet Union, the consol¬ 
idation of the socialist system and the victory of the people’s revo¬ 
lution in China. As early as 1948, as a result of the successful im¬ 
plementation of the first post-war plan (1946-1950) for the restora¬ 
tion and development of the national economy, the Soviet industrial 
output exceeded the pre-war level; by the end of that five-year 
period the 1940 industrial production level was exceeded by 70 per 
cent (by 100 per cent with respect to the output of the heavy in¬ 
dustry). The Fifth Five-Year Period (1951-1955) was highlighted by 
a further growth in social production and the consolidation of the 
Soviet social and state systems. The economic successes scored by 
the Soviet Union disproved the forecasts of bourgeois theorists and 
politicians who claimed that without Western help the Soviet Union 
would never be able to heal its war-inflicted wounds and move for¬ 
ward. 

Of great political importance was the Soviet Union’s testing of atom¬ 
ic (1949) and subsequently, thermonuclear weapons (1953). The 
latter kind of weapons was tested for the first time in history. Thus, 
the US monopoly of the most destructive modern weapons was 
eliminated, while the Soviet Union and the forces of peace the 

5-0515 









66 


CHAPTER 2 


world over were now in a position to hold in check the most aggres¬ 
sive and adventurist elements among the ruling circles of the im¬ 
perialist states. Of special significance in this context was the Len¬ 
inist principle of peaceful co-existence of states with different so¬ 
cial systems, one of the basic principles of the foreign policy pur¬ 
sued by the CPSU and the Soviet state. In 1946-1949, the Soviet 
Union repeatedly used the UN rostrum to call for the elimination 
of the causes of mutual mistrust between the socialist and the capi¬ 
talist states by dismantling military bases deployed on foreign terri¬ 
tories, withdrawing foreign troops to the countries where they be¬ 
longed, banning the propaganda of war and concluding a Five Great 
Power Peace Pact. 

When the Western powers, above all the United States, proved 
unwilling to agree to any of the proposed measures towards effect¬ 
ing disarmament and forestalling a new world war, the Soviet Union 
continued to persistently and vigorously urge to ban weapons of 
mass destruction and to reduce non-nuclear weapons and armed 
forces. These initiatives were bolstered by practical steps. Thus, 
following the end of the war the Soviet Union withdrew its troops 
from China, Korea, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Iran and 
other countries where they had been brought up during the war. 
While displaying its preparedness to expand equitable political co¬ 
operation with the West on the basis of peaceful coexistence, the 
Soviet Union also sought to broaden economic relations with cap¬ 
italist states and vigorously counteracted economic discrimination 
against socialist countries which was launched in the early 1950s by 
the West on the initiative and at a direct instigation of US impe¬ 
rialism. 

Meanwhile, numerous successes vrere being scored in building so¬ 
cialism in the countries of people’s democracy and in the expand¬ 
ing of economic and political co-operation among socialist states. The 
rates of economic growth in socialist countries considerably exceeded 
those in capitalist countries. Thus, whereas in 1950 industrial pro¬ 
duction in all capitalist countries was 1.4 times that of the 1937 
level, industrial production in socialist countries exceeded the 1937 
level by a factor of 1.9; by 1953 the difference in the rates of growth 
in the two groups of countries had become even more marked, hav¬ 
ing reached 70 per cent in the capitalist and nearly 200 per cent in the 
socialist countries. With the growth in the economic potential, ide¬ 
ological and political maturity and cohesion of the socialist coun¬ 
tries, their influence in the international arena became stronger. 
Once again experience testified that Lenin was right in contending 
that socialism would influence the course of the world revolutionary 
process mainly through its economic policy. In 1950, the socialist 
countries, whose total area amounted to 26 per cent of the world’s 




WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


67 


territory and whose population made up 35 per cent of the world’s 
population accounted for nearly 20 per cent of the world’s industrial 
output. In 1955 they accounted for nearly 27 per cent of it. 1 

The economic successes scored by the socialist countries, above 
all the Soviet Union, enabled them to cope with the tasks posed 
by the domestic socio-economic development and, at the same time, 
to build up their military potential in response to imperialist war 
preparations. Thereby they raised a barrier on the way of the im¬ 
perialist position-of-strength policy. The Warsaw Treaty, signed in 
1955, signalled a qualitatively new stage in the development of co¬ 
operation among the socialist states. At the same time, material and 
political prerequisites for more extensive, many-sided and effective 
help to the anti-imperialist forces were created. 

The new type of political and economic relations established by 
socialism among a number of states and peoples had a revolutionis¬ 
ing effect on the peoples in colonial and semi-dependent countries, 
too. Aid and support were given to the national liberation movement 
not only by the socialist countries, but also by the Communist par¬ 
ties and the working-class movement in the advanced capitalist coun¬ 
tries. Therefore, the first half of the 50s witnessed new successes of 
the growing national liberation movement. India put an end to its de¬ 
pendence on the British crown and proclaimed itself a republic. In¬ 
donesia won the war for independence against the Dutch colonialists 
and became a united republic. Burma, Ceylon, Egypt, Lybia and 
Sudan embarked on the road of independent development. Although 
imperialism still managed to retain its positions in Latin America 
and in the larger part of Africa, and to draw some of the newly- 
free national states into regional military blocs and alliances (for 
instance, in those years Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines 
joined such blocs), on the whole, the colonial system continued 
to disintegrate. The voice of the young national states acquired 
strength at international forums and organisations and in world pol¬ 
itics in general. Thus, whereas in its time (1937) the League of 
Nations had among its members only ten African and Asian states, 
the United Nations, at the time of its inception, incorporated 11 
such countries ; by 1955, their number had grown to 23. 

The early 1950s witnessed the emergence of the main principles 
of neutralism, a policy which, being in those years consonant with 
the interests of the young states, turned into an important factor 
in strengthening peace and international security, in broadening the 
practice of peaceful coexistence, and in the general democratisation 
of international and inter-state relations on an anti-imperialist plat- 


1 See International Relations After the Second World War, Vol. 2, Moscow, 
1963, pp. 33, 34 (in Russian). 


5* 






68 


CHAPTER 2 


form. Subsequently, neutralism provided the basis for the non- 
aligned movement, one of the most influential forces in present-day 
world politics. 

Thus, while the late 40s and the early 50s were marked by the 
activisation of the imperialist reactionary forces in all areas, by 
the spread of the cold war and the general deterioration of the in¬ 
ternational situation, by the mid-50s there had emerged a vast zone 
of peace which incorporated all that was progressive in the world 
arena, all that had a positive effect on international relations. The 
countries of the socialist community led by the Soviet Union con¬ 
stituted the nucleus of this zone. It is here that their economic and 
defensive potential was gradually accumulated, with which imperial¬ 
ism was forced to reckon. The anti-imperialist positions were also 
shared by the young national states in Asia and Africa, as well as 
the numerous national contingents of the anti-colonial movement 
which continued to intensify their struggle for the right of nations 
to self-sufficient, independent development. This combination of 
contradictory, opposed trends in international life—the reactionary 
forces’ offensive and, in response to it, the growing counter-offensive 
of the forces of progress and socialism—created a complex and, in 
many respects, unusual context for the development of the labour 
movement in capitalist countries. At the same time, it opened up 
new vistas for this movement. 

In these conditions the hard and bitter class struggle was marked 
by alternating successes and setbacks. The greatest victories were 
gained in those countries where the labour movement was led by its 
revolutionary vanguard (France, Italy and, in a sense, Japan). 

THE LEFT-WING FORCES AND THE WORKERS’ STRUGGLE 
IN FRANCE, ITALY AND JAPAN 

The militant trend in the labour movement in France, Italy and, 
in a certain respect, Japan, enjoyed influence and authority among 
the working masses and thus was able to offer an effective resistance 
to the reactionary forces despite all the hardships that marked the 
period in question. 

In 1947, taking advantage of the split in the working class, the 
monopolistic bourgeoisie in France assumed the offensive. It was 
supported by the US imperialists who kept their army in France 
until the end of 1947. The reaction’s onslaught could only be op¬ 
posed provided the two workers’ parties, the Communist and the So¬ 
cialist, maintained co-operation. Meanwhile, the relations between 
them were rapidly deteriorating. 

Apart from the differences on the foreign policy issues which 
multiplied as Europe became increasingly involved in the cold war, 






WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


69 


the Communists and the Socialists were divided by their different 
interpretation of the government’s internal political tasks. The SFIO 
policy was largerly determined by its leader’s (i.e. Leon Blum’s) 
concept, according to which there was a radical difference between 
the Socialists’ participation in the government and their seizure of 
power. Blum claimed that radical reforms designed to break the 
existing system and pave the way to socialism were only possible 
provided the workers’ parties seized power. Meanwhile, the post¬ 
war context, as he saw it, was suitable only for participation in the 
government (for “exercising power”), but not for seizing power. In 
these circumstances, the Socialists sought to observe the rules of 
political game imposed on them by their bourgeois allies. They 
were prepared to carry out reforms within the narrow limits estab¬ 
lished by these rules. This mechanistic concept, according to which 
the historical process consisted of separate, disconnected phases, 
served to justify the Socialist party’s gradual capitulation to the bour¬ 
geoisie and its repudiation of the fight for further transformation 
urged by the Communists. 

The communist ministers were increasingly regarded as an ob¬ 
stacle on the way to implementing the plans forged by the bour¬ 
geois parties, which strove after strengthening the capitalist sys¬ 
tem. Likewise, they were regarded as an obstacle on the way to im¬ 
plement the policy mapped out by the Socialists who described 
themselves to be champions of democracy and the true advocates 
of the interests of their supporters from among the factory and of¬ 
fice workers and the petty bourgeoisie. 

Taking advantage of the fact that on May 4, 1947 during the vote 
of confidence taken on a particular question the communist depu¬ 
ties, including communist ministers, cast their votes against the gov¬ 
ernment headed by the Socialist Paul Ramadier, President Vin¬ 
cent Auriol, a Socialist, too, decreed the removal of the communist 
ministers from their posts and appointed Socialists and Radicals to 
their offices. This measure signified not only the expulsion of the 
Communists from the government, but also the SFIO leaders’ final 
repudiation of co-operation with the French Communist Party and 
the unity of action of the working class. The right-wing Socialists 
preferred an alignment with the bourgeois parties to the co-opera¬ 
tion with the Communists maintained in the name of defending 
the working people’s interests. The removal of the Communists 
mated impending dangers, in particular, the danger of the US sup- 
from the government was due to the fact that the FCP underesti- 
port to the French bourgeoisie and failed to timely mobilise all its 
forces in order to foil the anti-communist plot. 1 


1 Cahiers du communisme, No. 11, 1947, pp. 1116-1117. 







70 


CHAPTER 2 


The bourgeoisie played up on the rightward shift so as to try 
to liquidate, relying in this on the economic support from the Unit¬ 
ed States, the democratic gains of the working class and deal a 
blow at its vanguard, the FCP. The removal of the Communists 
from the government signalled the beginning of a vicious anti-com¬ 
munist campaign and a purge that swept all government institu¬ 
tions. 

Another consequence of the rightward shift was a rise in prices 
which the new government did not try to prevent. In the second 
half of 1947, the prices grew by 51 per cent. This brought about 
a string of strikes. The strikes of protests against the expulsion of 
the Communists from the government were launched in May 1947, 
swept the entire country and reached their apex in October-Decem- 
ber, when they involved nearly 2,500,000 people. The national 
strike committee set up by the CGT demanded systematic rises in 
wages and the payment of temporary allowances to compensate for 
the rise in prices. The government mustered a force of 80,000 sol¬ 
diers to be used against the strikers. In the autumn of 1948, the 
troops and the gendarmes were thrown against the miners’ strike. 
The bourgeoisie’s onslaught was facilitated by a split in the CGT 
and by the setting up of a reformist trade union centre, la Force 
ouvriere, which aligned with the Socialists and refused to support 
the strikes on a plea of their “political” nature. 

In the “third force” bloc, which united the Socialists, the Popu¬ 
lar Republic Movement (Mouvement Republicain Populair, MRP) 
and the Radicals, and replaced, in 1947, the coalition government 
where some of the posts belonged to Communists, the centre of grav¬ 
ity increasingly shifted rightwards. In the end of 1947, the office 
of the head of government passed from SFIO to the MRP. In the 
1950s, the right-wing parties, including de Gaulle’s Rassemblement 
du Peuple Frangais (RPF) played an increasingly important role 
in coalition governments. The motley composition of these coalitions 
accounted for frequent government crises. 

In 1951, in a bid to undermine the FCP’s positions, the bour¬ 
geois parties and the SFLO, which formed an anti-communist bloc, 
effected a change in the election system—a party or a bloc of par¬ 
ties, which succeeded in gaining more than 50 per cent of the votes, 
were to receive all the given constituency’s seats. The bitter 
anti-communist campaign resulted in the FCP loosing 500,000 vot¬ 
ers; under the new election law it lost 74 out of 179 seats it pre¬ 
viously held in parliament. The next step taken by the ruling cir¬ 
cles in 1952 was to arrest some of the FCP and CGT leaders on a 
charge of organising conspiracy. In fact, it was an attempt to ban 
the Communist party. Banking on the trial, the right forces succeed¬ 
ed in limiting some of the rights granted to parliament (where the 








WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


71 


Communists had a strong faction) and the extension of the powers 
vested in the president and the government. 

The SFlO’s participation in bourgeois governments and its con¬ 
tribution to the anti-communist campaign did not earn it a wreath 
of laurels. Despite the Socialists’ attempts to claim services to the 
cause of defending democracy and establishing the minimum wages 
level, thier influence was declining. In the 1951 parliamentary 
elections they won only 14.5 per cent of the votes as against 23 per 
cent in 1945. By the mid-50s, the SFIO membership had dropped 
to 100,000. The party’s waning authority revealed the bancruptcy 
•of its “third way” strategy. In the mid-50s, some of the SFIO lead¬ 
ers started to look for a way out of crisis and tried to dissociate 
themselves from the reactionary forces. 

The anti-Communists’ attempt to undermine the positions of the 
FGP failed. The Communist Party remained, despite a certain re¬ 
duction in its membership, the country’s strongest political party. 
In the mid-50s it numbered nearly 500,000 members and won 
about 5,000,000 (26.5 per cent) votes at the elections (as against 
26.1 per cent in 1945). The CGT still led the majority of organised 
workers. While organising the struggle for stronger peace and 
against encroachments upon national sovereignty, the Communists 
championed proletarian internationalism. They declared: “The 
French people will never, never fight against the Soviet Union.” 1 

In a context when the right-wing parties and the SFIO, using 
all means to instill anti-Soviet and anti-Communist sentiments, 
sought political isolation of the FCP, the Communists succeeded 
in organising a series of mass anti-war demonstrations and strikes. 
The French public was anxious about the cold war and the grow¬ 
ing danger of a worldwide nuclear conflict. The FCP led the peace 
movement, imparted a militant, vigorous spirit to it and involved 
in it not only a considerable part of the working class but also 
people from other walks of life. The large-scale campaign to collect 
signatures under the Stockholm Appeal to ban atomic weapons (in 
France, the Appeal was signed by 14,000,000 people) was followed 
by many other political campaigns: against the dirty war in Viet¬ 
nam, against the NATO, against the remilitarisation of West Ger¬ 
many and ratification of the Treaty on the European Defence Com¬ 
munity (1953-1954). The failure of the EDC plan was largely a re¬ 
sult of the large-scale movement which touched off an acute politic¬ 
al crisis. 

Powerful political strikes and campaigns (such as the campaign 
against the visit of General Ridgway, Supreme Allied Commander 
Europe, to Paris, the campaign to stop trains carrying ammunition, 


1 Maurice Thorez, Fils du peuple, Paris, 1949, p. 234. 






72 


CHAPTER 2 


etc.) were organised with an active participation of the "working 
people. However, they did not always find support among the less 
politically mature masses. For instance, the attempt to carry out a 
general strike in February and then in June 1952 under purely po¬ 
litical slogans failed. 

Simultaneously with the political action taken by advanced work¬ 
ers and democrats there unfolded a large-scale strike movement 
advancing economic slogans. 

The greatest number of organised workers participated in the 
strikes carried out between 1947 and 1952. At the turn of the 50s, 
the trade unions avoided general strikes. Strikes were only an¬ 
nounced in individual industries (the miners 1 or the metal-workers’ 
“days of demands” may be recalled, for instance). The change in 
tactics was prompted by the desire to guard the workers against pri¬ 
vation and repression. 

The years-long discontent erupted in an impressive national strike 
in August 1953. The immediate cause of the strike was the La- 
niel government’s extraordinary decrees spearheaded primarily 
against the factory and office workers employed at public enterprises. 
Unity-of-actions committees were set up at the enterprises whose 
workers went on strike. The powerful campaign of concerted ac¬ 
tions, rising from below and bringing down the political and trade 
union barriers separating the working class forced the ruling cir¬ 
cles to satisfy the strikers’ demands. 

The general strike which flared up in August 1953 was not quite 
expected by the Communists. The Thirteenth FCP Congress held in 
June 1954, criticised the mistakes committed by the party, in par¬ 
ticular its tendency to engage in purely parliamentary activity 
which distracted attention from the work among the masses, espe¬ 
cially at enterprises. 1 

In the mid~50s the domestic political situation in France was rather 
complicated and contradictory. The popular masses were increasing¬ 
ly displeased with the government’s socio-economic policy, the min¬ 
isterial reshufflings and the foreign policy persued by their coun¬ 
try which passively took the US lead. At the same time, the pro¬ 
found split in the working class, part of which was paralysed by 
the “third force” strategy, prevented it from making an effective 
use of its militant potential. The country was exhausted by the co¬ 
lonial wars waged first in Indochina and then inAlgeria, by the rul¬ 
ing circles’ futile efforts to retain their control over other colonies, 
by France’s participation in the arms race, by endless disputes and 
contradictions among the bourgeois parties (which in various com¬ 
binations—with or without the Socialists—formed government coa- 


1 Histoire du Parti communiste frangais (manuel), pp. 556-557, 









WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


73 


litions), corruption and degradation in which the regime of the 
Fourth Republic was increasingly bogged down. Frequent changes- 
aiid impotence of coalition governments discredited the parliament¬ 
ary institutions and threatened to undermine the bourgeois- 
democratic regime as a whole. Meanwhile, the main force that 
coxdd guarantee democratic freedoms—the politically conscious 
working class rallied around the Communist Party—had been 
deprived of the possibility to take an active part in running state- 
affairs. 

In Italy, the situation was somewhat different. The struggle waged 
by the masses was facilitated by close co-operation between the 
Communists and the Socialists, which they maintained, unlike the- 
French Communists and Socialists, up to the mid-50s. This can be- 
accounted for by a longer experience of anti-fascist struggle which 
stimulated the co-operation of the workers’ parties. Another con¬ 
ducive factor was the political nature of the Socialist parties: where¬ 
as in France the Socialists were more or less associated with the 
labour right wing of the working-class movement, in Italy, part of 
the left-wing trend remained with the Socialist Party and continued 
to exert a decisive influence on its policy. Lastly, one should 
take into account the difference in the socio-economic conditions- 
prevailing in France and Italy. In Italy, acute class contradic¬ 
tions stemming from the closely intertwined capitalist and 
precapitalist methods of exploitation engendered widespread 
opposition and even revolutionary sentiment not only among 
the working class, but also among other groups of the working 
population. 

In the 40s, the advocates of a break with the Communists were- 
in the minority among the Socialists. As a result of two splits—in 
1947 and 1949—the opponents of unity with the Communists left 
the Socialist Party. They united in a new party headed by Giusep¬ 
pe Saragat. Since 1952 it has been known as Italian Social Demo¬ 
cratic Party (Partito Socialista Democratico, PSDI). The party nev¬ 
er succeeded in gaining any serious influence on the working 
class. However, the split in the socialist ranks weakened the left 
and had a negative effect on the situation in the trade union move¬ 
ment. The leaders of the Christian Democratic Party (Partito 
Democrazia Cristiana, or DC) tried to take advantage of the 1947 
split in the socialist ranks in order to remove representatives of 
the left-wing parties from the government. They succeeded in car¬ 
rying out their plan in May 1947, several months after their first 
attempt. A government without Communists and Socialists was 
presented as a condition for American economic aid to Italy. The 
practical results of the rightward shift were made possible due h> 
the inordinate caution of the Communist Party, which failed to mo- 






74 


CHAPTER 2 


bilise the masses to an active struggle against the efforts to dis¬ 
rupt national unity. 1 

Since the end of 1947, the Christian Democratic government 
headed by Alcide de Gasperi incorporated the representatives of the 
bourgeois Liberal and Republican parties and the Saragat party and 
assigned to them secondary roles. This centrist bloc, in which the 
leading role belonged to the DC (increasingly aligned with the mo¬ 
nopoly capital), served as a basis for the consecutive governments 
■of the late 40s and the 50s. While seeking to formally dissociate 
itself both from the extreme left and the extreme right, the bloc 
spearheaded its policy against the Communists and their allies. 

On the eve of the election to the first parliament of the Italian 
Republic (April 18, 1948), the Communists accepted the ISP’s pro¬ 
posal on setting up a Popular Democratic Front (PDF) on the ba¬ 
sis of the two parties and some smaller progressive organisations. 
The task of the Front was to urge the working class to close its 
ranks and to rally around it other groups of the working people. 
The Sixth ICP Congress (January 1948) reiterated that it was 
necessary to continue the struggle, in the new circumstances, 
for progressive democracy and structural reforms in Italian 
.society. 

The setting up of the PDF was interpreted by the reaction as 
■evidence of the Communist Party’s “preparations for the seizure of 
power”. The country witnessed extreme polarisation of social forces. 
The centrist bloc, rallied around the DC and opposed to the PDF 
■did not shun any means to prevent the left-wing parties from gain¬ 
ing victory. Intimidating the voters with the possibility of forfeiting 
US aid and facing a civil war in the case the PDF emerged victo¬ 
rious was the most effective method among all those used by the 
government bloc in the election campaign. 

US interference in Italy’s internal affairs was another factor that 
influenced the course of the election campaign. Material that was 
subsequently disclosed in the United States concerning the CIA 
illegal activity abroad showed that since 1947 it had been render¬ 
ing financial support to the “anti-communist” parties in Italy. 2 
The CIA acted on the instructions from President Truman who 
urged to make a full use of the US political, economic and, if need 
be, military potential in order not to allow the Communists to come 
to power in Western Europe. The January 1948 agreement on 
granting US “temporary aid” to Italy was played on by the prop¬ 
aganda media. Sops and promises were accompanied by intimida- 


1 La politica dei comunisti dal quinto al sesto congresso, Roma, 1947, 
<p. 385. 

2 L’Unita, January 27, 1976. 









WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


75 


tion. The withdrawal of the US troops still remaining in Italy was 
Relayed and in January 1948 US naval forces started to arrive at 
Italian ports. 1 

At the April 1948 elections, the bloc of government parties won 
the majority of votes, namely 16,000,000. About 12,700,000, or 
48.4 per cent of them, were gained by the Christian Democratic 
Party. Thus, the bourgeoisie established this party’s political monop¬ 
oly and was able to continue its onslaught against the working 
people, above all, the ICP. Nonetheless, the 8,100,000 votes (31 per 
cent of the total number of votes) cast for the Popular Democratic 
Front showed that this onslaught was going to meet with a serious 
rebuff. 

It was against the background of the pre-election anti-commun¬ 
ist hysteria that on July 14, 1948, the reactionary forces organised 
an attempt on the life of Palmiro Togliatti, the ICP General Secre¬ 
tary. The attempt outraged the masses. Millions of people came out 
onto the streets. On July 14-16, 1948, a strike of protest swept 
the country. However, the ICP leaders realised that the people’s in¬ 
dignation with the crime committed by the reaction did not signify 
the preparedness of the majority of the working people to come out 
against the CDP’s political monopoly and urge progressive democ¬ 
racy. The Communists focused their efforts on mobilising the work¬ 
ing people to rebuff the attempts to revise the democratic gains of 
the Resistance and fight for their rights and interests. 

The ICP was in the vanguard of the progressive forces, which, 
relying on the Constitution, opposed the Christian Democrats and 
their allies and persistently urged far-reaching socio-economic re¬ 
forms. The expulsion of the Communists from the government was 
followed by a sharp rise in the number of strikes. The 3,000 strikes 
called in 1947 involved 8,000,000 workers. In 1948-1953 an average 
annual number of people participating in the strikes ran to 
7,200.000. 

The Communists succeeded in providing leadership to the spon¬ 
taneous peasants’ movement. Peasants seized unfilled land belong¬ 
ing to landlords and set up co-operatives to cultivate it. Bloody 
clashes between the peasants and the police were quite frequent. The 
delegates elected by the peasants to the Constituent Land Assembly 
convened on the Communists’ initiative mapped out a programme of 
a democratic agrarian reform envisaging elimination of landed es¬ 
tates. The peasants’ mass struggle vigorously supported by the 
Working class forced the Christian Democrats to effect, in 1950- 
1951, an agrarian reform which set certain limits to landed estates. 
Moreover, a considerable number of the working people, among 


1 History of Italy, Yol. 3, op. cit., p. 277. 






76 


CHAPTER 2 


them farm hands, succeeded in raising wages and getting an eight- 
hour work-day. In 1950, Parliament passed a law on setting up a 
special fund (Cassa del Mezzogiorno) earmarked for public projects 
in the backward districts in the South of Italy. 

Among the achievements gained by the working-class movement 
in Italy was the elaboration of the idea of nationwide economic 
planning. In 1950, the Italian General Confederation of Labour 
(Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, CGIL) drew up a 
Labour Plan, i.e. a programme for economic development envisag¬ 
ing an improvement in the working people’s condition. The plan stip¬ 
ulated partial nationalisation and a broader state participation in 
defending the national industry and preventing closures. The im¬ 
plementation of the Plan, opposed by Parliament, became a slogan 
of the workers who demanded to eliminate poverty and unemploy¬ 
ment. The campaign to implement the Plan involved a series of 
“work-ins” when the unemployed undertook, on their own initiative 
and under the guidance of trade unions, such public projects as the 
construction of dams, laying canals or digging foundation pits. On 
completing the work, they demanded a pay from the authorities. 
Thus, the defence of the working people’s interests was combined 
with the campaign to secure economic development, especially in 
the most backward regions. 

The popular movement was unfolding against a background of 
discrimination against the progressive elements, police repressions 
and assassinations carried out by the mafia and the neofascists. 
Between early 1948 and mid-1950 alone 62 people were killed (48 
of them were Communists); 3,162 were wounded (including 2,367 
Communists) and 92,169 people (of whom 73,780 were Commun¬ 
ists) were arrested. 1 

The working people’s struggle was also hampered by the split 
in the CGIL. The wedge in its ranks was driven with a direct as¬ 
sistance from the US labour union leaders who acted in collabora¬ 
tion with the CIA. In 1948, the Catholic faction left the CGIL hav¬ 
ing differed with its leaders on the issue of the political strike called 
in token of protest against the attempt on the life of Palmiro 
Togliatti, and set up the Italian Confederation of Working People’s 
Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindicati Lavoratori., or 
CISL). In 1950, the Social Democrats and the Republicans dissociat¬ 
ed themselves from the CGIL and founded the Italian Labour Un¬ 
ion (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, or UIL). The emergent trade union 
centres had an anti-communist orientation and were therefore grant¬ 
ed financial support by the United States. In the late 40s and early 


1 Thirty Years of the Life and Struggle of the Italian Communist Party, 
Moscow, 1953, pp. 569-570 (in Russian). 






WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


77 


50s, the employers made efforts to circumvent the CGIL and con¬ 
clude collective agreements with the newly set-up reformist trade 
union centres. Nonetheless, the CGIL retained its influence on the 
majority of workers. In some cases the CISL and the UIL were forced, 
under mass pressure, to make common cause with the CGIL. 
However, they flatly refused to participate in political strikes. 

For all that, political struggle constituted the most important part 
of the workers’ mass movement in Italy. In 1949, in the course of 
a large-scale campaign organised on the Communists’ initiative, 
8,000,000 Italians protested against their country’s joining NATO. 
Over 17,000,000 people—a record number of people in the European 
capitalist countries—signed the Stockholm Peace Appeal. A large- 
scale protest campaign, which included rallies, demonstrations and 
strikes, was triggered by the undemocratic election law passed by 
the government majority in Parliament on the eve of the 1953 elec¬ 
tion. Linder this law, the party or the bloc of parties which suc¬ 
ceeded in winning more than 50 per cent of the votes was to be 
granted two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. This threatened the 
principles of democratic representation laid down by the Constitu¬ 
tion which, as was mentioned above, had been drawn up under the 
influence of the traditions of the anti-fascist movement. The left- 
wing forces could thus be reduced to an opposition helpless in the 
face of the Christian Democrats’ political monopoly. 

The Italian Communists who headed the working people’s strug¬ 
gle against the fraudulent law, helped to remove this threat. At 
the election held on June 7, 1953, the government bloc gained less 
than 50 per cent of the votes. The fraudulent law could not be ap¬ 
plied and was subsequently repealed by Parliament, The Christian 
Democrats gained only 40 per cent of the votes, while the two work¬ 
ers’ parties (on this occasion each of them acted independently) 
won 35.4 per cent of the votes, i.e. 1,700,000 more than in 1948. 
22.6 per cent of the votes were cast for the ICP (as against 19 per 
cent in 1946). The 1953 election signalled the first major setback 
to be suffered by the ruling centrist bloc. 

However, the left-wing forces were in no position to further the 
success scored in 1953. The situation remained complicated. The 
nascent economic upswing enabled some of the major monopolies, 
such as FIAT and Olivetti, which seized extremely favourable po¬ 
sitions on the world market, to soften the antagonisms by raising 
wages at their enterprises. At FIAT enterprises company unions 
Were set up. While their members were encouraged and placed in a 
privileged position by the management, the Communists, the So¬ 
cialists and CGIL members were kept under surveillance and dis¬ 
criminated against. As a result, in 1955 the left suffered a series of 
major setbacks at some of the largest enterprises in Northern Italy. 





78 


CHAPTER 2 


The CGIL’s influence in this industrial area noticeably waned. The 
FIAT plants entered upon a long period without strikes. 

The setbacks that followed the 1953 successes can be explained 
chiefly by the fact that the left failed to timely assess and take in¬ 
to account the economic and social changes that had occurred by 
the mid-50s as the economic development rates started to grow. An 
analysis of these changes provided by the Eighth ICP Congress held 
in December 1956 helped the Communists to make amendments in 
their party’s strategy and tactics. 1 

Despite the difficulties and the counter-action of domestic and in¬ 
ternational reaction, the communist movement remained the most 
influential trend in the labour movement in France and Italy. The 
Communist parties here secured for themselves an important place 
in political life and that was an earnest of subsequent successes of 
the left-wing forces. The workers strove for new gains and scored 
certain successes without confining themselves to defensive tactics. 

The working-class movement in Japan in the late 40s and first 
half of the 50s was marked by great specificity. The rapid develop¬ 
ment of the democratic and labour movement in the early post-war 
years brought about qualitative changes in the political situation 
in the country and undermined the political monopoly of the reac¬ 
tionary bourgeois circles characteristic of the pre-war years. The work¬ 
ing class became unprecedentedly well-organised: in 1949, trade 
unions involved more than 50 per cent of all factory and office work¬ 
ers. 2 The Communist Party, 3 which by that time had come out 
of the underground, enjoyed a membership of over 100,000 and won 
more than 3,000,000 votes (10 per cent) and 35 mandates at the 
1949 parliamentary election. In the late 40s, the Communist Party 
launched a struggle for Japan’s national independence and for the 
vital rights of its people, organised a campaign to secure higher 
wages and protest against repressions and scored considerable suc¬ 
cesses in organising the youth and women’s movements. The party 
had an active role to play in expanding the struggle for peace. It 
consolidated its ties with the masses, strongly opposed the policies 
pursued by the occupation authorities and the ruling circles and es¬ 
pecially the latter’s alliance with the US imperialists. The Commun¬ 
ist Party strongly opposed the aggression in Korea which was un¬ 
leashed by the US imperialists in 1950 with the approval and sup¬ 
port from the Japanese ruling circles. The Communists resolutely 
protested against Japan’s remilitarisation. 


1 Partito comunista d’ltalia Congresso 8, Rome, 1956. 

2 Japan Economic Year Book. Tokyo, 1960, p. 91. 

3 Modern Japan (1945-1975). A Handbook, Moscow, 1968, p. 327 (in Rus¬ 
sian). 






WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


7 $ 


The Socialist Party, which had a fairly strong left wing, enjoyed 
even greater influence. 

However, the situation that conduced to the successes of the left 
did not last long. This can be accounted for the weaknesses that 
ravaged the working-class movement: the gap between the levels of 
political consciousness and organisation of the workers employed 
on the smaller and the larger enterprises, the fragmentation of the 
trade union movement, instability and hesitation that highlighted 
the membership of workers’ parties. The latter was due to the lack 
of experience and traditions of struggle in a context of bourgeois- 
democracy and, more importantly, to the contradictory and compli¬ 
cated nature of the process of political maturing of the working 
class in a society whose ideology and mentality were still dominat¬ 
ed by the traditions of the pre-capitalist past. 

The reactionary forces played on the labour movement’s weak¬ 
nesses in the campaign they launched in the late 40s. Reaction’s 
onslaught was supported by the United States which continued to 
occupy Japan until 1952. US interference grew as the war in Ko¬ 
rea went on. However, the positions gained by the labour movement 
in the post-war years were strong enough to help the workers to 
hold out and not to be forced back to the pre-war positions. The 
successes scored by the reactionaries were temporary and could on¬ 
ly slow down the development of the powerful left-wing forces. Noth¬ 
ing could prevent them from going from strength to strength. 

The first move to signal the reactionary offensive was the ban¬ 
ning of the general political strike scheduled for February 1, 1947 
by the US occupation authorities. The aim of the strike was ta 
force Yoshida’s conservative government to resign. In mid-1948, on 
the instructions from General MacArthur, Supreme Commander 
for Allied Powers, Prime Minister Ashida issued directive No. 201 
which went down in the history of the working-class movement as 
the “black directive”. Under this anti-labour act (which is still in 
force) all those employed at state and social enterprises and estab¬ 
lishments have been deprived, in violation of the Constitution, of 
the right to strike. 

Just as was the case in Italy, the overtly anti-communist cam¬ 
paign culminated in an attempt on the life of the Communist Party 
leader, Kyuichi Tokuda. In the spring of 1949, the government is¬ 
sued an extraordinary decree under which the Communist Party 
was ranked with the organisations upholding violence and was thus 
to be subjected to persecution. The decree gave a fresh impetus to 
the repression against the Communist Party. 

General MacArthur’s special order banned the political activity of 
24 members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of 
Japan, the publication of the newspaper Akahata and other com- 








CHAPTER 2 


■so 


munist periodicals. The National Liaison Council of Trade Unions 
was disbanded. The purge involved mass dismissals of Communists, 
of the more active trade unionists and the leaders of the labour 
movement. Thousands of people were put down on the black list 
and lost their jobs. The Communist Party had to function in semi¬ 
legal conditions. 1 The period between 1950 and 1955 was one of 
the most difficult ones in the history of the CPJ. The controversy 
that surfaced already in 1950 prevented it from forging a correct 
strategic and tactical line. Ravaged by the intra-mural wrangling, 
the CPJ was in no position to effectively counter the repression. 
Its positions in the trade union movement were strongly undermined. 
The party committed a series of grave tactical mistakes of the 
-right-wing legalistic, left-wing opportunist and sectarian character 
by concentrating its attacks on the Socialist Party. 2 

All this accounts for the fact that, in the early 50s, strongly 
weakened, the CPJ lost an appreciable number of its members and 
voters, largely forfeited its positions in the country and failed to 
■correct its mistakes. The 5th CPJ Conference held in July 1955 helped 
overcome the mistakes committed in the past and laid the stage 
for restoring the party’s unity and for a radical improvement in 
the methods of work among the masses. The Conference strongly 
■criticised the extreme left-wing adventurist and sectarian tenden¬ 
cies. In this connection, special importance was to be attached to 
a correct approach to the trade unions and the struggle for their 
unity with the object of safeguarding the working people’s im¬ 
mediate demands. This conduced to the consolidation of the work¬ 
ing-class movement. 3 

Unlike the Communist Party, the Socialist Party did not suffer to 
any great extent from the repression unleashed in the late 40s and 
early 50s. However, its authority was appreciably impaired by its 
unsuccessful participation in the government in 1948, when, under 
the influence of Tetsu Katayama and other Socialist leaders, it took 
an opportunist stand and entered into co-operation with bourgeois 
parties. In the early 50s the SPJ forfeited its former influence and 
was facing a crisis. In 1950-1951, the right-wing Socialists who fa¬ 
voured closer co-operation with bourgeois parties drove a wedge in 
the Socialist ranks and set up a right-wing Socialist Party. This fur¬ 
ther weakened the socialist movement and enhanced the fragmen¬ 
tation of trade unions. However, in 1955, the SPJ’s unity was res¬ 
tored on the platform of struggle for democracy, national indepen- 


1 The History of Japan. 1945-1975, Moscow, 1978. pp. 79-80 (in Russian). 

2 The Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Javan, Moscow 1959, 
pp. 98-100. 104-105. 108. 113 (in Russian). 

3 Ibid., pp. 57, 114, 117-118. 







WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


81 


dence, working people’s well-being and universal peace. Following 
their reunification, the Japanese Socialists took an active part in 
the campaign to ban nuclear weapons and urged to normalise rela¬ 
tions with the USSR and the People’s Republic of China. This ac¬ 
counted for the SPJ’s major victory at the 1955 parliamentary elec¬ 
tion. Although the party’s ideological and political stand was rather 
vague, on the whole it sought to promote the interests of the work¬ 
ing people. In the second half of the 50s, it called for radical so¬ 
cial reforms. 

All this signified the setback of the reactionary forces which in 
the 50s made every effort to stabilise the bourgeois regime, advo¬ 
cate class co-operation and Americanise the working-class move¬ 
ment. The Japanese reactionary forces played the US card in a bid 
to make a fuller use of the assistance granted to them by that 
mighty and victorious power. Under the San Francisco Peace Trea¬ 
ty and the US-Japan Security Treaty (1951-1952) the United States 
retained and expanded their bases on the Japanese Islands and 
the US troops were in a position to interfere, if need be, into Ja¬ 
pan’s internal affairs. 

The year of 1950 saw an upswing in the Japanese economy caused 
by military orders from the US army. Over the first year of the 
war in Korea Japan’s industrial production grew by nearly 50 per 
cent. The Japanese ruling circles sought to ascribe to themselves 
the success in promoting the Japanese “economic miracle” and to play 
on it in an effort to enhance their influence upon the masses who 
also benefited, to a certain extent, from the rise in industrial pro¬ 
duction. It is in these years that the doctrines treating of “smooth¬ 
ing out class antagonisms”, of subsidence of class struggles and 
“universal well-being”, etc. were circulated among the working 
class. They especially affected the more backward groups of the 
proletariat. These groups, along with the peasantry, supported the 
bourgeois Liberal-Democratic Party, whose success was promoted 
both by the considerations of the moment, and the attractiveness of 
the “law and order” slogan in the eyes of people. 

However, the slogans of class collaboration and the invitation to 
share in the benefits of the “economic miracle” at the cost of aban¬ 
doning the struggle against the monopolies and against dependence 
on the United States failed to have a lasting effect on the consider¬ 
able and most active part of the working class. This is testified to 
by the evolution of the Socialist Party and by the history of the 
trade union movement in the period under the consideration. 

The trade unions withstood the counter-attacks launched by the 
right-wing forces and grew stronger. Admittedly, in the early 50s, 
particularly in 1951, their membership witnessed a certain reduction. 
However, already in 1955, the membership achieved and then sur- 

6-051 5 





82 


CHAPTER 2 


passed the 1949 level. In the mid-50s some 40 per cent of all facto¬ 
ry and office workers were associated in trade unions. The largest 
trade union centre was the General Council of Trade Unions of 
Japan (SOHYO), set up in 1950. 1 The US occupation authorities, 
the Japanese government and the monopolies welcomed its founda¬ 
tion. They pinned great hopes on the SOHYO, regarding it as a force 
capable of leading the labour movement along the road of com¬ 
promise. However, their hopes were frustrated. At its Second Con¬ 
gress held in March 1951, the SOHYO, pressurised by the left-wing 
trade unions, repudiated the attempts to saddle it with a reactionary 
policy and opted for the road of struggle for the working people’s 
interests. The Congress strongly condemned the US aggression in 
Korea and proclaimed “four principles of peace” which envisaged a 
struggle against the US intention to conclude a separate peace trea¬ 
ty, against Japan’s rearmament against US military bases on the 
Japanese territory and for an independent foreign policy. 2 

The reformist trade union association—the All-Japan Congress of 
Trade Unions (ZENRO)—set up in 1954 was designed to counter¬ 
balance the SOHYO. However, it incorporated a minority of trade 
unions and the SOHYO retained dominant positions in the trade 
union movement. 

Even in the early 50s, the period marked by brutal repression, 
a split in the working class and by the weakening of its organisa¬ 
tions, the number of strikers varied—from 1,100,000 to 1,300,000 
a year. The strikes, carried out under political slogans, were spear¬ 
headed against the right-wing forces against the anti-trade union 
campaign and against the efforts to revive monopolies. In 1953- 
1954, some of the trade unions tended to direct their efforts at pro¬ 
moting the solidarity of workers in the given locality, rather than 
at encouraging their mutual assistance within an industry. This 
imparted a regional character to the strikes and led to the general 
underestimation of nationwide campaigns. As a result, the strikes 
became less effective. However, by the mid-50s, the range of the 
demands advanced by the working people had broadened, the strug¬ 
gle assumed a militant character and the strike movement intensi¬ 
fied. This can be explained by the growth in the trade union mem¬ 
bership, the greater unity of the trade union movement and by the 
fact that the internal difficulties faced by the CPJ and SPJ had 
been overcome. 

The strikes were not the only form of the mass movement. In 
1952, for instance, impressive May Day demonstrations were held. 


1 P. P. Topekha, The Working-Class Movement in Japan in 1945-1971, 
Moscow, 1973, p. 81 (in Russian). 

2 See: SOHYO junenshi, Tokyo, 1964, pp. 247-268. 








WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


83 


In Tokyo, 500,000 people came out into the streets. The posters and 
banners they carried read: “Down with rearmament!”, “Let us de¬ 
fend peace and national independence!”. The police attacked the dem¬ 
onstrators. Two of the latter were killed and 1,400 wounded. 1 
These events, which took place in the period of mass strikes against 
the Subversive Activity Bill and which involved 3,000,000 partici¬ 
pants testified to the people’s determination to consolidate Japan’s 
independence after the occupation regime was repealed. In 1953, 
the country was swept by a mass campaign against the revival of 
militarism, against the threat of a new world war, and for peace. 

In December 1954, 34,000,000 Japanese signed the Appeal of the 
World Peace Council calling to ban nuclear weapons. A Japanese 
Council for Banning Atomic and Hydrogen Weapons was founded. 
The tendency towards the consolidation of all progressive forces man¬ 
ifested itself at the All-Japan Workers’ and Peasants’ Conference 
convened by the SOHYO in 1953, The All-Japan Council for Defence 
of the Constitution, set up in 1954, involved many workers’ and 
democratic organisations. The Council’s activity hampered the right- 
wing attempts to revise the Constitution. The progressives succeed¬ 
ed in getting Yoshida’s reactionary government resigned. The new 
government, headed by Ichiro Hatoyama restored diplomatic rela¬ 
tions with the Soviet Union. 2 

Just as was the case in France and Italy, the Japanese reaction’s 
counter-attack failed. The working-class movement was not forced 
back to the pre-war positions. In the mid-50s, the left-wing forces 
regrouped their ranks and regained their influence upon the masses, 
thus creating prerequisites for the large-scale popular action 
that swept France, Italy and Japan in the late 50s and the early 
60s. 

THE LABOUR MOVEMENT IN OTHER DEVELOPED 
CAPITALIST COUNTRIES 

Less impressive successes were scored by the working class in those 
countries where the positions of the labour movement were weak¬ 
ened by the bourgeois (in the United States) or reformist (in Brit¬ 
ain and West Germany) ideology. 

In the United States, the labour movement found itself in an es¬ 
pecially complicated situation. The US imperialists enjoyed suffi¬ 
cient political and economic power to counteract the working class 
which had no mass political organisation of its own and was affect¬ 
ed by bourgeois ideology. 


1 P. P. Topekha, op. cit., p. 87. 

2 Ibid., pp. 100-101. 


6* 







84 


CHAPTER 2 


The end of the war signalled a large-scale reactionary forces’ en¬ 
croachment on the rights of the American workers and on the achieve¬ 
ments gained by the latter during the pre-war and war years. 
The extreme conservatives, promoting the interests of Big Business, 
fattened on the war orders, demanded to put an end to the New 
Deal. 

At the end of 1946 and the beginning of 1947, the anti-union 
campaign reached its climax. A series of polls conducted in 1946 
among the employers showed that in their opinion unions had turned 
into a serious factor checking private initiative. 1 In the post¬ 
war years the conservatively-minded bourgeois ideologists were 
unanimous in the opinion that the existing methods of state labour 
regulation, just as social legislation, relieved the workers’ organi¬ 
sations from any responsibility for their actions. 

The period of 1945-1947 saw the envigorated activity of US Con¬ 
gress various committees charged with drafting reactionary labour 
laws. At the 1946 interim elections, the Republican Party gained 
majority in both houses of Congress. This enabled the coalition, made 
up of Republicans and the conservative Democrats from among 
the Southerners to establish their control over the legislation policy. 
In the opinion of US Communists, the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act 
adopted in June 1947 by the reactionary majority of Congressmen 
meant that “the American labor movement has suffered its single 
greatest blow in legislative history”. 2 

The Taft-Hartley Act was based on the principle of the direct state 
regulation of labour relations. It reflected the drive to “integrate” 
the trade unions, i.e. to do away with their independence and turn 
them into a “department” of the monopoly-controlled state acting 
on the instructions from the government and responsible for every 
slight breach of these instructions. In reaching for this goal the 
authors of the new statute applied two methods. On the one hand, 
the union activity, ranging from collective bargaining to setting up 
pension funds for union members, was strictly regulated. On the 
other hand, all aspects of the relations between the employers and 
the unions were placed under day-to-day control of special adminis¬ 
trative bodies. 

Under the Taft-Hartley Act, the principle of “unfair labour prac¬ 
tice” which earlier, under the Wagner Act, had been applied only 
to the employers, was spread to the unions. Glassed with “unfair 
practice” were the following kinds of union activity: refusal to par¬ 
ticipate in collective bargaining, demands to include the “closed 


1 R. A. Lester, Company Wage Policies. A Survey of Patterns and Ex¬ 
perience, Princeton, 1948. 

2 Political Affairs, Vol. XXVI, No. 8, 1947, p. 702. 





WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


85 


shop” 1 item in the collective agreement, organisation of secondary 
boycotts, participation in the strikes in violation of contracts, col¬ 
lection of inordinately high entrance fees, etc. The Act considerably 
limited American workers’ right to strike. Civil servants’ strikes were 
prohibited altogether. In the case where a strike “created a threat 
to national interests”, the US President was entitled to ban it for a 
period of up to 80 days. The unions calling a strike in violation of 
any provision of the Act forfeited all rights to be defended against 
the “unfair labour practice” on the part of the employers and might 
be prosecuted. 

The state set limits to the union’s political struggles and under¬ 
took to ensure the “purity” of American workers’ organisations by 
demanding from trade union leaders a yearly signed statement of 
their non-participation in the Communist Party of the USA. 

The Taft-Hartley Act encouraged anti-union legislation in the 
states. By September 1947, according to the US Labor Department, 
the so-called right to work acts banning closed and union shops 
agreements had been adopted in 14 states. It is no accident that US 
workers nicknamed the Taft-Hartley Act “a slave-labor charter”. 

The Federal authorities’ interference in the internal affairs of 
workers’ organisations was accompanied by civil and political discrim¬ 
ination against Communists, liberals and all other progressive ele¬ 
ments. The orgy of extreme reaction and chauvinism that swept the 
United States in the first half of the 50s was dubbed “McCarthy- 
ism”, after the Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy who headed 
the crusade against the “subversive elements”. To quote from the 
resolution adopted by the 16th Convention of the Communist Party 
USA, “this policy had its domestic counterpart in the smog of in¬ 
timidation and conformity that polluted American life, in the per¬ 
secutions, repressions and witchhunts that steadily eroded the Bill 
of Rights”. 1 2 Juridically, the foundation for this policy was laid by 
President Truman’s “checkup on the loyalty” instructions of March 
22, 1947, according to which all radicals and all persons who did 
not please the right forces were to be expelled from government 
bodies. 

In the summer of 1948, more than 100 left-wing public figures, 
including 12 leaders of the Communist Party (which was reconsti¬ 
tuted in 1945), were brought to trial. During the US imperialist in¬ 
tervention in Korea, a whole series of anti-labour laws was adopt- 


1 “Closed shop” is a provision of the collective agreement binding the 
employer to hire only the members of the given union. In the United States, 
the implementation of this provision was the most reliable guarantee of 
trade union rights at an enterprise. 

2 Communist Party, USA. 16th National Convention, New York, 1957, 
p. 261. 







86 


CHAPTER 2 


ed, among them the McCarran-Wood Internal Security Act of 1950. 
The Subversive Activities Control Board set up under the McCar- 
ran-Wood Security Act was charged with conducting thorough in- 
vestigations into “Communist activity”, and, discovering and regis¬ 
tering “Communist front” organisations. One of the articles of the 
McCarran-Wood Security Act envisaged a fine of $10,000, or five 
years of imprisonment, or both for the refusal of a person or an or¬ 
ganisation belonging to the “Communist front” to register with the 
Law Department. 

In August 1954, an amendment to the McCarran-Wood Law, 
known as the Communist Control Act, was passed. The CP USA 
was outlawed and deprived of any rights, privileges and immunity 
usually granted to the organisations founded in keeping with US 
legislation. 

In the context of the anti-communist hysteria stirred up by Sen¬ 
ator Joseph McCarthy, or the persecution and victimisation of all 
differently-minded, some of the Communists were forced to go un¬ 
derground. All this weakened the Communist Party and other pro¬ 
gressive organisations and hampered the activity of trade unions, es¬ 
pecially that of the union left wing. “Most of the trade union lead¬ 
ers chose to retreat and conform and, thereby began the prolonged 
period of stagnation and further losses. . .” 1 By the end of 1948 
more than 80,000 union functionaries had complied with the pro¬ 
visions of the Taft-Hartley Act and borne affidavits to their non¬ 
affiliation to the Communist Party. That signified the trade union 
leaders’ recognition of the Act, as well as their refusal to campaign 
for its abrogation. 

The political weakness of the labour movement conduced to the 
victory of the reactionary course in the post-war United States. The 
LIS working class failed to attain the necessary level of organised 
protest against anti-labour legislation. As a result, the reactionar¬ 
ies succeeded in saddling it with the Taft-Hartley Act. That meant 
“a major setback for the US working masses”. 2 

Since the early days following the enforcement of the Taft-Hart¬ 
ley Act the leaders of the AFL and CIO sought to reduce the grass¬ 
roots worker organisations’ counteraction to the Act with purely 
“parliamentary” forms of activity. They launched a campaign against 
those Congressmen who had voted for the Act. At the same time, 
the right-wing reformist union leaders (who in the early post¬ 
war years advocated the ideas of “class peace” and “community of 
national interests”) became involved in the anti-communist crusade, 
propagated the cold war against the socialist countries. As a result 

1 G. Morris, American Labor—Which Way?, New York, 1961, p. 47. 

2 The Recent History of the US Working-Class Movement, Vol. 2, (1939- 
1965), Moscow. 1971, p. 214 (in Russian). 







WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


87 


of the strengthening of its right wing, the Congress of Industrial 
Organisations (which before the war was in the vanguard of the 
workers’ struggle) found itself involved in the anti-communist cam¬ 
paign. In 1948, its leader, Philip Murray, declared that there was 
no room for Communists in the CIO. In 1946-1949, the CIO lead¬ 
ers succeeded in expelling from the CIO those major trade unions 
whose leaders held left-wing views. 

While allowing the bourgeoisie to establish its ideological and 
political hegemony over the US working class, the right-wing AFL 
and CIO leaders involved their organisations in purely economic 
struggle against the employers, the struggle for material conces¬ 
sions. The increased membership and greater organisational 
strength of the trade unions, as well as considerable strike funds 
at their disposal, enabled them to engage in sustained struggles 
and to resist the employers’ offensive. In 1949 alone, the number 
of man-days lost due to strikes ran to more than 50,500,000 and 
in 1952, to 58,100,000. 1 

Of all major organisations, only the miners’ and printing-house 
workers’ unions refused to make signed statements testifying to 
their leaders’ non-affiliation of the Communist Party. In 1948-1949, 
they joined the Railroad Brotherhoods in organising a series of large- 
scale strikes to protest against the main provisions of the Taft- 
Hartley Act, in particular, against the “closed shop” ban. 2 These 
strikes revealed the anti-union orientation and the anti-labour es¬ 
sence of the new labour laws. The strength of the above-mentioned 
trade unions lay in their uniting practically all the workers in 
the given trade or industry. This accounted for the stubborn and 
consistent resistance offered by these unions, and for the courage 
and determination of their leaders. But for the Taft-Hartley Act 
and the well-organised force of the state machinery, the employers 
could have hardly held out. 

The state’s onslaught on the trade union rights resulted in the 
AFL-CIO merger in 1955. The fact that most trade unions were unit¬ 
ed in a single association—the AFL-CIO—with a membership of 
16,000,000 3 enabled them to be more efficient in defending the 
rights of trade union organisations and promoting workers’ de¬ 
mands. At the same time, the fact that the merger took place largely 
on the AFL platform strengthened the right-wing reformist trend 
in the US trade union movement. 

In the context of persecution, witchhunts and slander cam¬ 
paigns aimed at isolating the Communists, the latter continued to 

1 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1954, p. 228. 

2 The Recent History of the US Working-Class Movement, Vol. 2, op. cit., 
p. 213. 

3 Ibid, p. 313. 






88 


CHAPTER 2 


hold the banner of the workers’ political struggle in their hands. 
During the 1948 election campaign, the Communists vigorously sup¬ 
ported the setting up of the Labour-Progressive Party which opposed 
the Truman administration’s domestic policies and demanded to 
repeal the anti-labour Taft-Hartley Act, repudiate the cold war pol¬ 
icy and establish friendly relations with the Soviet Union. At the 
presidential elections, Henry Wallace, the candidate of the Labour- 
Progressive Party, won more than 1,000,000 votes. 

The Communist Party and the left-wing trade unions expelled 
from the CIO wrote down many glorious pages in the history of 
the struggle against McCarthyism and for expanding the peace 
movement. In 1950, the Communist Party assisted in setting up the 
Peace Champions’ Information Centre headed by the prominent 
scientist William Dubois. The Stockholm Appeal was signed by 
2,500,000 Americans. The Communists maintained ties with the dem¬ 
ocratic organisations which came out against McCarthyism and 
campaigned for peace, among them the American Women for Peace, 
American Peace Crusade, and American Civil Liberties Union. 
Nevertheless, due to the most unfavourable conditions obtaining in 
the country in those years, the Communist Party’s struggle to free 
the working people from the ideological influence of imperialism 
could only yield limited results. 

The years of the Second World War and the early post-war years 
constituted an important stage in the development of the labour 
and trade union movements in Canada. This period saw the emer¬ 
gence of trade unions in a number of key industries (among them, 
automobile, aviation, metallurgical, electrical engineering, and chem¬ 
ical industries). Between 1939 and 1949 trade union member¬ 
ship grew from 359,000 to 1,000,000. 1 The labour movement was 
on the rise. The process was accompanied by the weakening of the 
right-wing opportunists’ positions within it. In 1945-1947, the Com¬ 
munists and the Social Democrats enjoyed great influence in trade 
unions. 

A large number of major trade unions, including the Canadian 
branch of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Work¬ 
ers and the United Automobile Workers, found themselves under 
the influence and leadership of the Communist Party which was re¬ 
constituted, in 1943, under the name of the Labour-Progressive 
Party (LPPL Communists were among the leaders of the large trade 
unions associated in the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL). 
In this period, major successes were also scored by the social dem¬ 
ocratic movement. They were crowned by the emergence of the 
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). 


1 Labour Organisations in Canada, Ottawa, 1957, p. 9. 








WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


89 


In the late 40s and early 50s, Canadian Communists had to offer 

stubborn resistance to reaction’s onslaught against the democra¬ 
tic and political rights of the working class. The political persecu¬ 
tion of the LPP and the trade unions that supported it, unleashed 
by the Canadian and US big bourgeoisie, was accompanied by an 
anti-Soviet campaign in the press and by the propaganda of Brau- 
derism in the working-class and trade union movements. 

In 1947, the Canadian ruling circles launched a policy aimed at 
Canadian-US integration, that strongly conduced to the growth of 
the economic and political influence exerted by US imperialism. In 
the period in question, the encroachment on the rights of the work¬ 
ing class manifested itself in a whole set of anti-labour bills which 
were copied out from similar anti-labour acts adopted in the Unit¬ 
ed States. With the direct interference from the right-wing leaders 
of the AFL and CIO, a number of organisations adhering to a pro¬ 
gressive stand were expelled from Canadian trade union associa¬ 
tions 4 ; the election of Communists to the leading trade union posts 
was prohibited; trade union rules were supplemented with articles 
under which those trade unions that allowed Communists in their 
ranks automatically forfeited the right to collective bargaining. A 
complete ban on the Communist Party was put on the agenda. 

The situation in the labour movement was aggravated by the tra¬ 
ditional division of trade unions among three centres. It was not 
until 1956 that two of them—the Trades and Labour Congress of 
Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress—merged to form the 
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). This somewhat strengthened the 
trade union movement, which nonetheless largely retained its for¬ 
mer stand. 

The early post-war years witnessed an upsurge in the labour 
movement in Australia. The defeat of the German fascism and Jap¬ 
anese militarism conduced to a broader struggle for improving the 
economic situation and expanding democratic rights. During the 
war, the left-wing forces grew in their prestige. Progressive public 
figures were elected leaders of many major trade unions (among 
them, the dockers’, seamen’s, metallurgists’, railwaymen’s and build¬ 
ers’ unions). The Communist Party now enjoyed greater influence; 
the reactionary forces’ political positions were seriously weakened, 
and the Labourites came to power. 

It is in this context that the trade unions and the Communist 
Party demanded to grant more extensive rights in economic manage- 

1 For instance, in 1951, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers 
and the United Mine Workers of America were expelled from the Canadian 
Congress of Labour for being controlled by the Communists. (See H. D. Woods,, 
Silvia Ostry, Labour Policy and Labour Economics in Canada, Toronto, 1962, 
P. 107.) 




90 


CHAPTER 2 


ment to trade unions. This demand was formulated in the resolu¬ 
tions adopted by the Congress of the Australian Council of Trade 
Unions held in 1945. The strike movement acquired an unprecedented 
mass scale, never known in Australia before. Under the pressure 
from the working people, the Labourites promised to carry out dem¬ 
ocratic reforms. However, the only measure that was taken was 
the nationalisation of domestic air lines. The Supreme Court disrupt¬ 
ed the attempt to establish state control over private banks. 

The upsurge in the mass labour movement met with the resis¬ 
tance from the monopoly capital and the ruling circles. This resulted 
in the expansion of the forced arbitration system which enabled the 
government to impose fines on the trade unions involved in “illegal” 
strikes, imprison trade union leaders, and interfere in trade unions’ 
internal affairs. 

At the same time, attempts were made to weaken the labour move¬ 
ment from within. The early post-war years witnessed the activi- 
sation of “industrial groups” in trade unions and “political groups” 
in the Labour Party. These groups had close ties with the reactiona¬ 
ries among the top people in the Catholic Church. Their activity, 
markedly anti-communist, was aimed at ousting the left-wingers 
from positions of leadership. Although the progressive forces suc¬ 
ceeded in getting the upper hand, the above-mentioned groups man¬ 
aged to cause serious damage to the labour movement and to 
weaken its resistance to the onslaught of the monopoly capital. It 
is largely owing to their subversive activity that in the early 50s 
the ruling class succeeded in checking the growth of the labour 
movement and impeding the working people’s struggle to improve 
their economic and political positions. 

In the late 40s and the early 50s, the working-class movement 
in the Federal Republic of Germany was going through a difficult 
stage. The aftermath of the fascist rule, the exhaustion caused by 
the war and the country’s occupation by the British, French and 
the US troops encouraged the monopolistic bourgeoisie to assume 
the offensive. 

iln the context of the emergence of two German states with op¬ 
posed social systems, anti-communism which had been maintained 
.among the West German population since the nazi time and foment¬ 
ed by the propaganda allegations about “the horror reigning in 
the Soviet zone” acquired particularly aggressive forms here. Playing 
on the fact that the boundary between the two opposed worlds stretch¬ 
ed across the territory of a previously united country, the ruling 
class persistently sought to present social antagonisms as results 
of the external enemy’s “subversive activity”. All the official polit¬ 
ical and social forces hastened to display their anti-communist 
■orientation. Not only the occupation authorities, West German mo- 








WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


91 


nopolies and bourgeois parties, but also many of social democratic 
and trade union leaders came out against the Communists in a 
practically united front. 

The low level of class awareness among the workers largely ac¬ 
counted for the success of bourgeois propaganda efforts and for the 
reactionary onslaught. The post-war economic disruption and priva¬ 
tion suffered by the masses impeded the latter’s activity. Comment¬ 
ing on this, Max Reimann wrote: “Poverty endured by the working 
people has pushed into the background important political and na¬ 
tional problems.” 1 The improvement in the economic situation in 
the early 50s was described as the result of the efforts made by the 
ruling bourgeois circles. 

The emergence of a socialist state on the German territory forced 
the ruling class in the FRG to take a cautious approach to class 
interrelations and agree to certain concessions in the social area. 
It sought, however, to use these concessions as a means of working- 
class “loyalty”. 

The policy adopted by the ruling class greatly impeded the ac¬ 
tivity of West German Communists, especially because the blatant 
anti-communist campaign was accompanied by repression and dis¬ 
crimination practices. As early as 1948, the Communists were re¬ 
moved—with the assistance of the occupation authorities—from all 
important ministerial posts in the Lands. The purge was subsequent¬ 
ly spread to government offices at large. The 1951 law to call to 
account all those reported to criticise the government gave a 
new dimension to the persecution against the Communist Party of 
Germany (CPG). The activity of the Free German Youth League 
known to have ties with the CPG, and the publication of commu¬ 
nist newspapers were banned. In the trade unions, the right-wing¬ 
ers urged to discharge Communists from positions of leadership. 
Some of the campaigns and demonstrations (among them the na¬ 
tionwide poll conducted to find out the public’s attitude to the re¬ 
vival of militarism) were prohibited. 

In the context of increasing isolation and unbridled persecution, 
the CPG did its best to go against the stream and offer stubborn 
resistance to the pressure. The division of the country in 1948 forced 
the Communists to set up an independent party on the territory 
of Western zones. The Communist Party of Germany, organisation¬ 
ally independent from the SUPG, was headed by Max Reimann, a 
battle-tested fighter against nazism. The Communists came out 
against the occupation status and persistently called the people to 
create a united democratic republic. In 1952, they advanced a Pro¬ 
gramme for the National Reunification of Germany. Rallies and 
demonstrations in support of the programme swept the country. The 
1 Max Reimann, A us Reden und Aufsatzen. 1946-1963, Berlin, 1963, p. 62. 







92 


CHAPTER 2 


Bonn Treaty of 1952 and the Paris Agreements of 1954, which 
paved the way for the militarisation of West Germany, met with 
the strong protests from West German Communists. 

The Communists initiated any of the efforts to defend the work¬ 
ing people’s immediate interests. They took an active part in the 
struggle to safeguard the rights of workers at enterprises, to control 
speculation and combat starvation. In 1951, they convened a trade 
union conference which demanded to secure for the workers an op¬ 
portunity to participate in the management of production. 1 

The Communist Party was the only party in the FRG to consis¬ 
tently uphold the basic interests of the working class and the na¬ 
tional interests of the whole of the people. However, it did not al¬ 
ways succeed in co-ordinating its logically consistent and resolute 
demands and slogans with the sentiments and everyday needs of the 
majority of the working people. The Communists’ wholesale and 
resolute condemnation of the orders established in West Germany 
was not always understood by the broad masses of the workers, 
especially after 1948, when efforts to restore the West German econ¬ 
omy were launched and the living conditions of the working peo¬ 
ple were somewhat improved. The lack of flexibility vis-a-vis the 
Social Democratic Party of Germany, the excessively straightforward 
and not always convincing criticism of the latter’s policy hampered 
the efforts to achieve the unity of workers’ action sincerely desired 
by all Communists. Repression forced many Communists to leave 
the party. All this impaired the CPG’s influence. 2 

In this complicated situation, faced with the united front of the 
reactionary forces and the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, the 
CPG made serious tactical mistakes. Among them was the goal of 
“overthrowing the Adenauer government” formulated in the Pro¬ 
gramme for National Reunification. Later, at its 23rd plenary ses¬ 
sion held in March 1956, the CPG leadership denounced this goal 
because it was not consonant with “the situation and conditions 
prevailing in West Germany, complicated the problem of establish¬ 
ing a united front of the working class and hampered the effort to 
rally the progressive forces and all those who thought in terms of 
the nation”. 3 Moreover, the Programme gave a wrong assessment 
to the positions taken by the Social Democrats and the trade unions. 4 

The provisions of the Programme were used as a convenient pre- 

1 V. D. Yezhov, Class Battles on the Rhine. The Working-Class Movement 
in West Germany (1945-1973), Moscow, 1973, p. 136 (in Russian). 

2 The Communist Party of Germany. 1945-1965. Brief Historical Survey, 
Documents, and a Chronicle of Events, Moscow, 1968, pp. 49-50, 68-69, 75-79, 
108-109 (in Russian). 

3 Dokumente der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands 1945-1956, Berlin, 
1956, p. m. 

4 V. D. Yezhov, op. cit., pp. 175-176. 





WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


93 


text for launching a hysterical campaign against the GPG. In No¬ 
vember 1952, the FRG government filed a petition with the Federal 
Constitutional Court in which it requested to proclaim the CPG 
a party whose activity “ran counter” to the Constitution. In the 
autumn of 1954, legal proceedings against the CPG were started 
in Karlsruhe. In August 1956, it was proclaimed anti-constitutional. 
The Communists were outlawed. The prohibition of the Communist 
Party was a natural outcome of the policy pursued by the FRG 
ruling circles. In 1955, they dragged the country into the North 
Atlantic bloc and turned it into a seat of potential aggression in 
Europe. The CPG went underground, regrouped its forces and 
launched a selfless struggle to uphold the revolutionary traditions 
of the West German working class. 

The policy of anti-communism, repression, the ban imposed on 
the CPG and the consequent drop in its influence weakened the 
working people’s positions and conduced to the activisation of the 
militarist and revanchist forces. Nonetheless, most of the working 
class never fell under the control of the right-wing and conservative 
parties. Only a minority of workers voted for the ruling bloc of the 
bourgeois parties CDU/CSU. The majority of the working class sup¬ 
ported the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDPG), which 
remained the country’s largest party. Its leaders, representing the 
reformist trend in the working-class movement, were still in no 
position to ignore the class interests of the hired workers who con¬ 
stituted the most important contingent of the party’s mass base. For 
the class-conscious West German workers deemed it important that 
the SDPG proclaimed allegiance to the idea of socialism in its doc¬ 
uments. The SDPG Programme adopted in 1954, stated that the 
party’s goal was “to restructure society in the spirit of socialism as 
only socialism could create conditions for an unimpeded develop¬ 
ment of every person’s abilities”. 1 

However, the reformist party’s loyalty to socialist ideals was a 
mere declaration. Having refused to recognise the socialist system 
established in the “Soviet zone”, the right wing of the SDPG leader¬ 
ship, headed by K. Schumacher and E. Ollenhauer, became actively 
involved in the cold war against the Soviet Union and the coun¬ 
tries of people’s democracy. By demanding to “liberate” the GDR, 
hy refusing to recognise Germany’s boundaries as established by 
the Potsdam Agreements and by participating in the anti-communist 
campaign, the SDPG leaders helped to foster revanchism and reac¬ 
tion in the country. 

At the same time, the Social Democrats took their own, albeit 


1 Dokumente zur parteipolitischen Entwicklung in Deutschland seit 1945, 
Dritter Band, Zweiter Teil, Berlin, 1963, p. 94. 






94 


CHAPTER 2 


inconsistent, political stand on a number of major issues and thus 
dissociated themselves, to an extent, from the policy pursued by 
the CDU/GSU. Mindful of the experience of the Weimar Republic 
and the nazi dictatorship, the SDPG was apprehensive of an exces¬ 
sive rightward shift in the policy pursued by the ruling circles. The 
Social Democrats criticised the Adenauer government’s anti-demo¬ 
cratic steps and denounced its patronage of the extreme right-wing, 
pro-nazi organisations. They urged to ban the latter and to streng¬ 
then parliamentary and bourgeois-democratic institutions. The Soc¬ 
ial Democrats believed the idea of “liberating” the GDR by military 
means to be illusory and came out against the FRG’s remilitarisa¬ 
tion and its participation in the NATO. The SDPG warned against 
the strengthening of the monopolies and financial oligarchy in West 
Germany, favoured an improvement of working conditions and so¬ 
cial security and a broader workers’ participation in the manage¬ 
ment of enterprises. Under the conditions prevailing in the 50s, even 
this political line could be helpful in rebuffing the onslaught of 
reaction. However, the SDPG leaders’ militant anti-communism, 
reformist inconsistency and weakness, controversial behaviour and 
fear of reliance on the mass movement more often than not brought 
to naught the importance of their anti-monopoly and militarist dec¬ 
larations. 

The SDPG’s socio-economic policies featured the same tendency 
towards mere declaration, narrow parliamentary approaches and 
repudiation of the unity of action. Those trends and groups within 
the party which demanded a decisive struggle against the monopo¬ 
lies and for socialism were in the minority. The SDPG sought to 
play the role of a “third force” rejecting both capitalism and com¬ 
munism. In practice, however, their efforts boiled down to state- 
monopoly regulation of the economy. Admittedly, unlike the CDU/ 
GSU, the SDPG accepted a more consistent, “democratic” variant 
of state-monopoly regulation, the one that envisaged certain social 
reforms. For instance, the SDPG deemed it necessary to nationalise 
the extractive industry, ensure workers’ participation in manage¬ 
ment, give aid to small and medium-sized enterprises, freeze rent, 
increase pensions, develop health services, labour protection, etc. 

Within the framework of the policy actually implemented by 
the SDPG, the working class was in a position to struggle only for 
some of its demands, without going beyond the limits established 
by the existing system. At the same time, the SDPG’s socio-economic 
doctrines allowed for the ruling class’ social manoeuvring. In the 
mid-50s the party’s leadership was increasingly dominated by the 
group which rejected even the “radical” phraseology that called for 
casting off “the Marxist ballast” and turning Social Democracy from 
a workers’ into a “popular party”. 



















WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


95 


The reformist trend also prevailed in the West German trade 
unions, especially after the 1952 purge, when the Communists were 
removed from all, even the least important, posts in trade unions. 
Yet, by virtue of their obligation to defend the immediate interests 
of the working people, the trade unions 1 ties with the working class 
were stronger than those of Social Democracy. Not infrequently they 
were more resolute in their pronouncements and actions than the 
SDPG. The early post-war years, when efforts to combat starvation 
and control speculation were put high on the agenda, saw the most 
dramatic upsurge in the economic struggle of the West German work¬ 
ing people. The strikes and demonstrations held in the early months 
of 1948 involved nearly 2,500,000 workers. The general strike called 
in the autumn of 1948 involved 9,250,000 participants. 1 When eco¬ 
nomic disruption was remedied and the country enjoyed a rise in 
production, economic struggles subsided. This reflected the weak¬ 
ness of the West German labour movement which for a long time 
was content with predominantly material gains that resulted from 
the economic boom. 

The West German united trade union centre, known as the Asso¬ 
ciation of German Trade Unions (AGTU) and strongly influenced 
by the Social Democrats, was set up in 1949. Between 1949 and 
1954, its membership grew from 4,800,000 to 6,100,000. The AGTU 
Munich Programme and the more detailed Principles of Economic 
Transformation formulated “collectivist” demands, such as trade 
unions’ equal participation in the economic management on all 
levels (up to the federal level); nationalisation of major industries; 
and provision to the working people of a “just” share of the natio¬ 
nal wealth. Even a partial implementation of the goals formulated 
by the AGTU called for determined and strenuous class struggle 
with reliance on large-scale mass action. 

The right-wing AGTU leaders made every effort to avoid strikes 
and called for “class collaboration” with the employers. Nonetheless, 
the years of 1954 and 1955 saw large-scale strikes and demonstra¬ 
tions held to demand an improvement in the workers’ living stan¬ 
dards. The general strike called by the Ruhr miners and metal 
workers involved 800,000 participants. 

The AGTU leaders declared that trade unions would not be in¬ 
volved in political struggles. They avoided making any statements 
or taking any action on major political issues, such as the division 
of Germany or the elaboration of the West German Constitution. 
In the early 50s, the contradiction between the bold pronouncements 
and criticisms of the existing system and the day-to-day opportunist 


1 V. P. Iyerusalimsky, The Years of Struggle and Maturing, p. 228. 





96 


CHAPTER 2 


practices was the AGTU’s main highlight. For all that, trade unions 
still had a certain political role to play as they urged, via the SDPG, 
workers’ involvement in production management, economic planning, 
etc. In 1951, on the AGTU initiative, a law was adopted to ensure 
the participation of workers’ representatives in the watch commit¬ 
tees established by the companies in the mining and metallurgical 
industries. In point of fact, this kind of “co-management” signalled 
legal recognition of the rights gained by the working class in 1946- 
1947. Under this law, 50 per cent of all seats in watch committees 
and one of the three managerial posts in joint-stock companies em¬ 
ploying more than 1,000 workers were to be granted to enterprises’ 
and trade unions’ delegates. The law was among the major post¬ 
war gains of the West German working class. The working masses 
and the trade unions regarded the 1951 law as a first step towards 
the democratisation of the economy, one that established a model 
of “co-management” at all major enterprises in all industries, re¬ 
gardless of their legal status and form of ownership. 

However, the bill providing for “co-management” of the rest of 
industrial enterprises, drawn up by the government in 1952, depart¬ 
ed from the principle of representation parity in the watch commit¬ 
tees. Under the bill, the workers were to have only one-third of 
the seats. Moreover, it restricted the rights of production councils, 
prescribed trade unions’ “responsible co-operation” with the em¬ 
ployers “in the name of common wealth” and banned political activ¬ 
ity at enterprises. The bill did not fail to arouse the workers’ indig¬ 
nation. In May 1952, rallies and short-term strikes of protest against 
the bill were held in many towns and involved 2,500,000 work¬ 
ers. Although the AGTU leaders denounced the bill, they feared 
the grass-roots movement and did not wish to rely on it. As I 
a result, the May 1952 workers’ action did not amount to any¬ 
thing more than a formal demonstration of the AGTU organ¬ 
isational strength. The endorsement of the bill by the Bun¬ 
destag signalled a setback for the West German working-class 
movement. 

Thus, in the complicated conditions prevailing in the post-war 
years, due to the opportunists’ sway in the working-class move¬ 
ment, the West German workers failed to offer a realistic alterna¬ 
tive to the monopolies’ and reaction’s onslaught. In the mid-50s, the 
West German working class was on the defensive. 

The reformists’ domination was also featured by the labour move¬ 
ment in Great Britain. Admittedly, it did not face the same 
amount of difficulties as were plaguing the West German working 
people. Unlike the FRG, Britain was not in the forward edge of 
the cold war battle area. Therefore, the extreme reactionaries’ in¬ 
fluence on the British policy and ideology was far weaker. The 







WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


97 


workiug class was in a position to benefit from the Labourites’ vic¬ 
tory in the 1945 election. 

However, by the late 40s the situation in Britain had changed, 
but not in favour of the working class. Having effected a number 
of major reforms (which did not, however, undermine the positions 
of the British monopoly capital), the Labour government concluded 
that its main domestic-policy tasks had been fulfilled. To quote 
from R. H. S. Crossman, one of the Labour Party leaders, “the na¬ 
tionalisation of half a dozen major industries, the construction of 
an all-in system of social security and a free health service, and 
the tentative application of planning to the national economy—the 
achievement of these reforms seemed to have exhausted the content 
of British socialism. . . .The Labour Party was unsure where it was 
going.” 1 The right-wing leaders of the Labour Party who played 
the dominant role in the government and the parliamentary faction 
were unwilling to go on with radical social reforms demanded by 
the left-wing Labourites. 

The fragmentation and organisational weakness of the left wing 
prevented it from playing an important role in the party, especially 
as the cold war had already broken out. Meanwhile, for all its prom¬ 
ises to pursue a “socialist” foreign policy, the Labour government 
aligned with the initiators of setting up the North Atlantic bloc, 
dividing Germany and rearming the FRG. 

Equally contradictory was the Labourite policy as regards the 
colonies. Having granted independence under the pressure of the 
oppressed peoples’ movements to India, Pakistan, Burma and Cey¬ 
lon, having withdrawn British troops from Indochina and Indonesia 
and having cut off military aid to Chiang Kaishek, the Labour gov¬ 
ernment took measures to consolidate the economic positions of the 
British monopolies abroad, especially within the boundaries of the 
former empire reorganised into the Commonwealth of Nations. While 
granting independence to a number of its colonies in Asia, the 
Labour government threw the British troops against the national 
liberation movements in Malaya, Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Kenya, 
Nyasaland and Guyana. 

In their turn, the cold war and the growth in the military spend¬ 
ing had an impact on the Labour government’s domestic policies. 
The arms race and the need to finance reforms led to a growth of 
the taxes and, subsequently, to a freeze in social spending. The 
primary aim of the government’s call for saving and of the efforts 
to overcome the chronic balance-of-trade deficit was to moderate 
the working-class demands. The limitations imposed on imports 
(which resulted in a price rise), the efforts to restrain the working 


1 R. H. S. Crossman, New Fabian Essays, London, 1953, p. 1. 
"—0515 






98 


CHAPTER 2 


people’s consumption and the wage freeze in 1948-1950 signalled 
the infringement of the factory and office workers’ interests. 

The contradictory nature of the results achieved by the Labour 
government—a considerable growth in the size of nationalised prop¬ 
erty and improvements in the social services, on the one hand, 
and reconstruction and modernisation of the weaker industries at 
the expense of the working people, as well as the austere economy 
system and inordinate military commitments, on the other, account¬ 
ed for the Labourites’ waning popularity among the workers in the 
late 40s and early 50s. In the context of the growing dissatisfaction 
with the outcome of the Labour government activity, unofficial, 
spontaneous strikes, whose organisers bypassed the right trade 
union leaders bent on checking the workers’ struggles, were called 
more and more often. In 1948, the Labour authorities used the 
troops to suppress the “wild” strike of London dockers. In 1950- 
1951, some of the unofficial strike organisers were brought to trial. 

Following the example of the Tories, the Labour Party leaders 
got involved in the anti-communist campaign and urged to fire Com¬ 
munists working at government offices and occupying top trade 
union positions. Some of the left-wing Labourites were expelled 
from the party on the grounds of their co-operation with Commu¬ 
nists. The 1950 declaration 41 Labour and New Society” laid 
emphasis on moral issues rather than on outstanding socio-economic 
and political problems. 

Thus, towards the end of their unprecedentedly long term in of¬ 
fice (1945-1951), the Labour government found itself in an impas¬ 
se. The programme of social reforms had almost been completed. 
As for further steps, the ones which could undermine the might 
and power of monopolies and radically improve the working peo¬ 
ple’s living standard, the right-wing Labour leaders proved impotent 
to take them. In the cold war context, the government’s and the 
Labour Party’s policy was increasingly spearheaded at the left¬ 
wingers and the Communists, while their foreign policy increasingly 
featured anti-Sovietism and Atlantic orientation. The Labourites’ 
policy caused the growing indignation of the masses. As a result, 
the ruling party suffered a defeat at the parliamentary election in 
the autumn of 1951. Although the number of votes cast for the 
Labourites was slightly greater than the number of votes given for 
the Tories, the victory gained by the latter in most constituencies 
secured for them a majority of seats in Parliament. That ushered 
in a 13-year-long period of the Tory rule, i.e. the rule of those 
who promoted and defended the interests of the bourgeoisie. 

Unlike the Labour government, the Tories aimed their policy at 
encouraging and strengthening private enterprise. Vehement oppo¬ 
nents of nationalisation, the Tories returned, in 1953, the metallur- 






WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


99 


r - ca l plants reconstructed at the public expense, to their former 
owners. That measure extended partial denationalisation. Rent con¬ 
trol was abolished and municipal housing construction curtailed, 
playing up the economic boom that started in 1952, the Tories made 
themselves out guarantors of the country’s “welfare”. However, the 
growth in direct taxes and prices, as well as the anti-labour orien¬ 
tation of the policy pursued by the Tories who strongly condemned 
the strikers for being “mercenary” and “selfish” gradually led to 
the activisation of the working people’s struggle. 

At first, the strike movement was predominantly local by nature. 
Strikes were called at individual enterprises and never engulfed 
whole industries or industrial centres. The outmoded and complicat¬ 
ed shop structure of trade unions often prevented the strikers from 
gaining victory. The fact that the workers employed at one enter¬ 
prise belonged to many different trade unions complicated the prep¬ 
arations for and guidance of strikes. Nonetheless, the strike move¬ 
ment in the period under discussion was broader than in the pre¬ 
war years. Whereas in 1934-1938, the average annual number of 
strikers amounted to 318,000, in 1949-1953 the figure rose to 
518,000. In 1953, mass strikes sweeping whole industries were re¬ 
sumed. Among the largest in a series was the strike of machine- 
and ship-building workers called on December 2, 1953. Work was 
stopped entirely or partially at 4,200 factories and dockyards. The 
5,154 strikes called in 1953-1955 involved nearly 2,500,000 work¬ 
ers. 1 The Tories’ anti-labour policy met with the growing resist¬ 
ance from the trade union vanguard. 

At the same time, anti-communist propaganda and the dismissal 
of workers’ militant leaders from top trade union posts divided and 
weakened the left-wing forces and hampered the activisation of the 
proletariat. In the complicated context of the cold war and of the 
anti-communist orgy which had an impact on the reformist wing 
prevailing in the labour movement, the Communist Party of Great 
Britain lost two parliamentary seats it gained in 1945, and its in¬ 
fluence on the masses grew weaker. However, it retained important 
positions among the shop-stewards who organised most of the 
strikes. To a certain extent, the Communists retained their ties with 
some of the left-wing Labourites. Together with the independents 
and some left-wing Labourites, the Communists organised the peace 
movement. The British Peace Committee collected 1,400,000 signa¬ 
tures under the Stockholm Appeal. 2 

The bourgeoisie failed to strangle the revolutionary trend in the 

1 V. V. Peschansky, The Present-Day Labour Movement in Britain, Moscow, 
1963, p. 127 (in Russian). 

2 V. G. Trukhanovsky, Britain’s Recent History, Moscow, 1958, p. 533 (in 
Russian). 


7* 






100 


CHAPTER 2 


labour movement. In 1951, proceeding from a profound analysis of 
the experience of the British and international working-class strug¬ 
gle, the Communist Party of Great Britain advanced its new pro¬ 
gramme known as The British Road to Socialism. The Programme 
formulated a thesis concerning the possibility and necessity of using 
Parliament for the purpose of a relatively peaceful advancement to¬ 
wards socialism. The Programme read: ‘‘The people of Britain can 
transform capitalist democracy into a real People’s Democracy by 
transforming Parliament, the product of Britain’s historic struggle 
for democracy, into the democratic instrument of the will of the 
vast majority of her people.” 1 

The British Communists also emphasised that radical political, 
economic and social transformations in the country can only be 
effected through a broad alliance of people from all walks of life— 
the organised working class, the brain and manual workers, self- 
employed workers, engineering personnel, urban middle classes, and 
farmers. According to the Programme, the organised working class 
which had the greatest stake in the struggle for a new society was 
to constitute the decisive and leading force of this alliance. 

A situation similar to the one that prevailed in the late 40s and 
the early 50s in Britain and was marked by the strengthening of 
the tendency towards compromise and by the consolidation of op¬ 
portunist trends in the labour movement, was observed in the Scan¬ 
dinavian countries. Pleading the economic difficulties (inflation and 
stagnant production), the Social Democrats suspended the imple¬ 
mentation of limited social reforms. The only important step taken 
in the domestic area was the adoption of a new Constitution in Den¬ 
mark (1953). Under the Constitution, one-chamber Parliament was 
instituted, the age qualification for the voters was lowered from 25 
to 23 years, the Faeroe Islands were granted autonomy, and Green¬ 
land’s colonial status was abolished. Repudiating any co-operation 
with the Communists and taking a strongly anti-communist stand, 
the Social Democrats in the Scandinavian countries opted for a 
bloc with smaller petty-bourgeois parties (with the Radicals in Den¬ 
mark and with the Farmers’ Union in Sweden). Denmark and Nor¬ 
way joined the NATO which since then has been the buttress of 
"‘Atlantic” policy in Scandinavia. It was only in Norway that the 
Social Democrats united in the Norwegian Workers’ Party formed 
a one-party government. The growing split in the working-class 
movement was detrimental to the Communist parties which suffered 
tangible losses at parliamentary elections. The situation was further 
compounded by the spread of the revisionist and dogmatic attitudes 
in the Communist Party of Denmark and by the controversy among 


1 The British Road to Socialism, London, 1952, p. 12. 


















WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


101 


jt, s leaders. 1 Yet, in this difficult situation, the Communists man¬ 
aged to retain strong positions in the trade union movement and 
played an active role in the peace movement which had grown into 
an important force in Scandinavia. The first half of the 50s was 
marked by a certain activisation in the strike movement in all 
Scandinavian countries. 

In Austria, the early post-war years saw a certain equilibrium 
between the Socialist Party of Austria (SPA) and the conservative 
bourgeois Austrian People’s Party (APP). In defiance of the pro¬ 
tests from the left-wingers among the SPA leaders, the party em¬ 
barked on the road of “social partnership”. As a result of this pol¬ 
icy, the nationalised sector of the economy which accounted for 
more than 30 per cent of industrial production gradually turned 
into the leading component of the state-monopoly machinery. De¬ 
spite the obvious prevalence of the right wing in the APP in the 
late 40s, the Socialists continued to co-operate with that party. In 
1949, a group of left-wingers headed by E. Scharf left the SPA; in 
1956, they united with the Communist Party. The autumn of 1950 
saw a series of strikes called in token of protest against the trade 
union leaders’ agreement with the government under which the 
increase in wages did not make up for the growth in prices. Bereft 
of the Socialists’ support, the strikers were defeated. This major 
setback ushered in a long period of decline in the strike movement. 
The trade union association practically refused to regard the strikes 
as the working class’ weapon in the struggle against the employers. 

Despite the reactionaries’ efforts—supported by the SPA leaders— 
to isolate the Communists, the latter went on with their resolute 
struggle to defend the working people’s interests, to secure a settle¬ 
ment with the powers which had participated in the war against 
nazi Germany and to withdraw the occupation troops from Austria. 
As early as 1953 the Communist Party brought up the question of 
proclaiming Austria’s neutrality. The signing of the State Treaty 
on the Reconstitution of Independent and Democratic Austria by 
the representatives of the USSR, the USA, Great Britain, France 
and Austria in May 1955, and the adoption, in October 1955, of 
the law on the country’s neutrality by the Austrian parliament were 
among the first signs of the relaxation of international tensions in 
the 50s. They testified to the correctness of the CPA’s principled 
policy. 

In Belgium and the Netherlands, the Social Democratic parties 
were not so influential as their counterparts in Austria or the Scan¬ 
dinavian countries. Confessional parties (such as the Belgian Social 
Christian Party and the Dutch Catholic People’s Party) and the 


1 World Marxist Review, No. 3, Vol. 2, 1959, pp. 53-57. 









102 


CHAPTER 2 


Liberals had relatively strong positions in the working-class move¬ 
ment. Periods marked by a bitter struggle between the bourgeois 
and the social-reformist parties alternated with periods marked by 
their co-operation. The co-operation was only natural in the con¬ 
text of the cold war anti-communist policies pursued by Social Dem¬ 
ocratic parties in that period. The anti-communist campaign 
launched by reaction culminated in the assassination of Julien Lahaut, 
Chairman of the Belgian Communist Party, in 1950. Yet, the tradi¬ 
tions of anti-fascist struggle were still alive among the broad popu¬ 
lar masses. They made themselves felt when the question of restor¬ 
ing the collaborationist King Leopold III to the throne was raised. 
On June 22, 1950 Belgium was swept by a general protest strike 
which involved nearly 500,000 people. Stormy demonstrations were 
held in all major towns. Leopold III was forced to delegate his 
authority to his son Baudouin, who became king on his coming of 
age in 1951. 

A very special situation obtained in Finland. Here, up to July 
1948, the Democratic Union of the People of Finland (DUPF) of 
which the Communist Party was the main force, had participated in 
the government. By unleashing a vigorous slander campaign 
against the DUPF, which was charged with preparing a coup d’etat, 
the reactionaries managed to have its representatives expelled from 
the government. This was followed by the coming to power of the 
Fagerholm government which tried to reorient the country’s foreign 
policy towards worsening its relations with the USSR and achiev¬ 
ing a rapprochement with the West. These attempts failed. The 
new government, headed by Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (at that time 
leader of the Agrarian Union), normalised, with the DUPF’s assis¬ 
tance, Soviet-Finnish relations. In 1956, Kekkonen was elected 
President. 

The worsening of relations between the Communists and the So¬ 
cial Democrats told on the situation in the trade union movement. 
In the context of growing inflation, the reformist leaders of the 
Central Trade Union Association of Finland (CTUAF) checked the 
struggle for higher wages and even concluded an agreement on an 
“economic truce” with the employers’ union. The trade unions un¬ 
willing to comply with the agreement were expelled from the 
CTUAF. However, it was increasingly difficult to prevent the work¬ 
ers’ from advancing ever new demands. In March 1956, the work¬ 
ing people’s discontent culminated in a prolonged general strike 
during which, for the first time in many years, co-operation between 
Communists and Social Democrats was established. 

Finland, where the Communists’ and the Social Democrats’ 
forces within the working-class movement were roughly equal, took an 
intermediate position between other small West European countries 







WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


103 


where the reformists dominated the labour movement, and the larg¬ 
er countries, above all France and Italy, where the correlation of 
forces was more expressly in favour of the revolutionary trend. 

THE PECULIARITIES OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT 

IN THE LATE 40s AND THE FIRST HALF OF THE 50s 

In the late 40s and the first half of the 50s, the working class and 
especially its vanguard—the Communist parties—offered a strong 
resistance to the counter-attacks launched by imperialist reaction in 
almost all developed capitalist countries. In some areas—working 
people did not confine themselves to defence. They assumed the 
offensive and scored certain successes. 

In this period, the labour movement in capitalist countries was 
developing along two principal lines. The struggle to improve the 
proletariat’s living standards continued. In some countries it even 
acquired a broader scale. At the same time, many of the workers, 
together with the progressive intellectuals and representatives of 
other non-proletarian groups, were engaged in the open and bitter 
political struggle against reaction. They came out against the impe¬ 
rialists’ efforts to prepare for and unleash another world war. The 
vanguard of the international working class was the main force in 
the campaign to preserve peace, curb the arms race and avert the 
threat of a thermonuclear world war. The degree of the workers’ 
participation in the political struggle differed from country to coun¬ 
try, ranging from the involvement of a rather small workers’ van¬ 
guard in the United States to the large-scale involvement of Italian 
and French workers. Similarly different was the combinaion of 
economic and political struggles. On the whole, with the exception 
of several large-scale economic campaigns (a string of strikes that, 
followed the expulsion of Communists from the governments, the 
struggle to implement the Labour Plan in Italy, the 1953 strike in 
France, etc.), this period was not highlighted by the combination 
of economic and political struggles. There was a wide gap between 
the conscious political struggle waged by the proletariat’s vanguard 
and the day-to-day economic struggle involving most of the work¬ 
ing masses who seldom joined the struggle for major long-term goals. 
This gap could be accounted for by the profound ideological split 
in the working class and by the dominant positions occupied by 
social reformism in the working-class movement in some countries. 

For all that, the political struggle waged by the working class 
was tremendously important. It proved that the reactionary counter¬ 
offensive could never suppress its militancy, do away with its po¬ 
litical independence, deal it a crushing blow and establish unlimited 
monopoly rule in developed capitalist countries. 







104 


CHAPTER 2 


The variety and the essence of political demands advanced by 
the front-rank workers, who never ceased their struggle against the 
right-wing forces and instantaneously reacted to any manoeuvre 
undertaken by the enemy, testified to their high political awareness. 
They demanded, among other things, to abide not in word, but in 
deed, by democratic constitutions and laws adopted by the parlia¬ 
ments of their countries in the early post-war years (for instance, 
they urged consistent democratisation and denazification of West 
Germany and demilitarisation of Japan). They resolutely protested 
against reactionary encroachments on democratic freedoms, on the 
working people’s franchise and representation in parliaments (in 
France, Italy, the FRG), against anti-labour legislation (especially 
in the USA, the FRG and Japan), and against the infringement of 
the rights of trade unions and workers’ committees. They never 
ceased to campaign for the extension of their rights and implemen¬ 
tation of socio-economic reforms (for agrarian reforms in Italy and 
Japan, for the nationalisation of industry in Britain, Japan and 
other countries). 

The late 40s and the first half of the 50s were highlighted by 
the progressive workers’ political activity which took a characteris¬ 
tic form of demands to stop the arms race and war preparations, 
repudiate nuclear arms and ban their production, put an end to the 
cold war and normalise relations with the Soviet Union and other 
socialist countries. These demands, as well as protests against the 
creation and maintenance of the NATO and other aggressive blocs 
were intertwined with protests against the armed intervention in 
Korea and other countries and against aggression in general, with 
demands to democratise foreign policy and with actions of solidari¬ 
ty with the peoples’ liberation struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin 
America. Progressive workers also came out against the presence of 
foreign troops and deployment of military bases, against the subju¬ 
gation of the ruling circles in European capitalist countries and 
Japan to the influence of US imperialism, against US inter¬ 
ference in the affairs of these countries, especially against the 
Marshall Plan. They demanded full independence and national 
sovereignty. 

In the late 40s and the first half of the 50s, millions of progres¬ 
sive working people participated in rallies and demonstrations. They 
also resorted to such dramatic forms of struggle as stopping trains 
loaded with military cargo and blockading government offices. The 
forms of struggle became more varied and vehement than before 
and had a great impact on class struggles, especially in France, 
Italy and Japan. 

In many countries, elections to central and local representative 
bodies, as well as these bodies themselves w T ere used for the pur- 





WORKING-GLASS MOVEMENT AND THE GOLD WAR 


10S 


p 0S es of advancing alternatives to the policies pursued by the ruling 
circles and for mustering and mobilising opposition forces. This 
form of political activity became widespread in countries with a par¬ 
liamentary system and a high level of organisation of the working 
people, such as France and Italy. 

Filing petitions was another widespread form of action. Cam¬ 
paigns to collect signatures under appeals for peace, for banning 
atomic weapons, stopping imperialist aggression in Korea or Viet¬ 
nam and other similar appeals were another means of mobilising 
progressive forces. In developed capitalist countries such campaigns- 
involved tens of millions of people. 

As the working class and especially its vanguard formed the core 
of mass movements in many countries, right-wing attempts to iso¬ 
late it failed. Mass movements expressed the interests of the work¬ 
ing class and other progressive forces and had a general democratic 
platform. They played a historic role by checking the reactionary 
circles in the imperialist countries and forcing them to make con¬ 
cessions. However, the heroic struggle of the advanced workers 
against the policy of imperialism was not always closely linked to- 
the day-to-day struggle waged by the broad masses with the object, 
of securing immediate improvement in their living conditions. At 
times it assumed a somewhat declarative form and was confined to 
general protests and declarations of general principles. Nonetheless,, 
despite the gap between the economic and political struggles 
they both served to check the onslaught launched by the ruling 
class. 

In the years under discussion, the struggle to urge improvements- 
in the living standards of the working people was marked by a 
great variety of forms and a vast scale. Special emphasis was laid 
on the demands for higher wages. The purpose was not only to se¬ 
cure a wage rise but also to establish a guaranteed minimum wage- 
arid provide for the automatic adjustment of wages to the growth in 
prices. Workers demanded improvement in the labour protection 
and social security systems, longer leaves, elimination of unemploy¬ 
ment, and guaranteed full employment. They demanded skill-im¬ 
provement opportunities and protested against the intensification 
of labour and dismissals due to modernisation and automation of 
production. Great emphasis was laid on the conclusion, observance and 
regular revision of collective agreements and extending the practice 
of concluding them from individual enterprises to companies and; 
whole industries. In many countries, for instance, in the United 
States, Canada, Japan and Italy, collective bargaining was the main 
direction of the workers’ struggle for better living standards and 
broader rights at their places of work. 

Many strikes resulted from conflicts between the trade unions; 







106 


CHAPTER 2 


and employers because of their different interpretation of the col¬ 
lective agreement provisions. The close link between the strikes 
and the conclusion of collective agreements disproved the bourgeois 
sociologists’ thesis about the mechanism of collective bargaining serv¬ 
ing as a stabiliser of class relations between labour and capital. 
Wage-rate agreements became the object of constant struggle be¬ 
tween labour and capital. The growth in the number of demands ad¬ 
vanced by the strikers was chiefly mirrored by the growth in the 
number of articles covering the employees’ wages, working conditions 
and status at the place of work, which were included in collective 
agreements. Once a victory was scored and reflected in a collective 
agreement, it served as a bridgehead for the next round of struggle 
for new demands. 

At the same time, a great number of workers’ demands went be¬ 
yond the limits of collective agreements. Among them were demands 
to stop discrimination according to sex, race and nationality or the 
demands to promote the interests of other groups of working people 
—office workers, peasants, intellectuals. The importance attached to 
them and their correlation were different in each country. They 
were supplemented by specific demands generated by the specific con¬ 
ditions obtaining in a given country. All of them could cause and. 
in many instances, did cause bitter struggle in which strikes occu¬ 
pied an important place. 

In the period under consideration, the first tide of strikes swept 
most of the developed capitalist countries in the late 40s. The 
second tide surged in 1951-1953 or, in some countries, in 1953- 
1955. Between 1947 and 1956, the number of strikers in the six larg¬ 
est capitalist countries ran to nearly 100,000,000, i.e. more than 
the number of people involved in strikes that took place in all de¬ 
veloped capitalist countries during 21 years between 1919 and 1939. 
The number of man-days lost due to the strikes amounted to nearly 
570.000,000. During the decade in question the strike movement at¬ 
tained the broadest scale in Italy and was the most stubborn in the 
United States where the strikes caused a loss of 352,000,000 man- 
days. The first three years—1947, 1948 and 1949—saw major strikes 
which involved nearly 50 per cent of all people (more than 
45,000,000) who went on strike in the largest capitalist countries 
in the decade in question. 

In 1947-1949, as well as in the first half of the 50s, general 
strikes were a frequent occurrence. The degree of the working 
masses’ involvement in strikes differed from country to country. In 
1948-1956, the percentage of workers involved in strikes was rela¬ 
tively high in Italy, France, Australia, Japan and Finland. It was 
rather low in the Scandinavian countries, the FRG, and the Nether¬ 
lands. The United States, Canada and Britain occupied an inter- 












WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


107 


lediary position between the two groups of countries. On the 
whole, the percentage of workers involved in strikes in 1948-1956 
grew in almost all major capitalist countries. 

In terms of intensity, scale and duration of strikes, the United 
States, Italy, France, Finland, Australia, Japan and Canada came 
first. The strikers were the most tenacious and stubborn in Swe¬ 
den, Canada, Finland and the United States. 

An increasing emphasis was laid on granting careful and judi¬ 
cious leadership to the strikes. A correct analysis of the situation 
often enabled the trade unions to succeed in wrenching concessions 
by calling, or threatening to call, a short-term strike. As the eco¬ 
nomic situation worsened, the employers’ resistance to the workers’ 
demands grew and strikes became longer. With the help of right- 
wing reformist trade union leaders, the capitalist state elaborated 
and implemented a legislative and contractual procedure for delay¬ 
ing, hampering and disrupting strikes. The institution of the so- 
called “cooling-down periods” (from one week- to several month s- 
long ones), during which strikes were temporarily prohibited, en¬ 
abled the employers and the authorities to prepare for them. Among 
the means of intimidating the trade unions was the imposition of 
fines on disobedient unions and throwing strike leaders into prison. 
The bourgeois state’s onslaught against trade union rights was car¬ 
ried out not only along the lines of “consolidating law and order”. 
To establish “order” at enterprises where strikes were called extra¬ 
ordinary measures were applied, up to calling in troops and resort¬ 
ing to arms. 

However, in most cases the monopolists used more sophisticated 
means. By making partial concessions and by manoeuvring, they 
set different groups of strikers against one another and drove a 
wedge in the trade union ranks. Internal controversy in the trade 
union movement, too, once it arose, seriously undermined the strik¬ 
ers’ position and, at times, brought about their defeat. Organisa¬ 
tional difficulties experienced by trade unions and shopwise frag¬ 
mentation in such countries as Britain and the United States also 
had a negative effect on the strikes. 

The working class noticeably varied the tactics and the forms of 
strikes. Widely practiced were so-called preventive strikes aimed at 
demonstrating a high level of the workers’ organisation and their 
preparedness to fight for their interests. In Japan, they had a spe¬ 
cific stage-by-stage pattern. At the first stage, work was stopped 
lor 24 hours; if the employers refused to make concessions, work 
' v as stopped for 48 hours and then, for another 48 hours. After that, 
the duration of the strike was not specified and it could last for an 
^definite period. In the phase of the economic boom, workers, es¬ 
pecially skilled ones, often refused to work overtime and thus exert- 





108 


CHAPTER 2 


ed pressure on the employers. This method of struggle proved to 
be effective. 

When for financial or juridical reasons it was impossible to call a 
normal, open strike, trade unions called on the workers to slow down 
work. This form of strike was broadly used in Japan. Transport and 
communication workers in many capitalist countries widely used a 
similar type of strike known as ‘work according to rules”. Shop 
assistants or other workers employed in the sphere of services often 
resorted to “diligence strikes”, when they provided better services 
to clients at the cost of the employer. 

Trade unions also employed such methods of putting pressure to 
bear on the employers as calling meetings and rallies during work¬ 
ing hours, the workers’ simultaneous going on holiday and other 
similar forms of struggle which did not run counter to labour legis¬ 
lation. Such actions interrupted the production process or stopped 
it altogether without strike being officially called. 

The tactics of “guerrilla strikes” was prompted by the under¬ 
standing of the importance of sudden, unexpected blows dealt at 
the employers. Occuring unexpectedly at the key production points 
and with the use of limited forces they caused considerably small¬ 
er economic losses to the trade union membership as a whole. This 
was especially important in the case of those trade unions which 
had small strike funds or did not have them at all. Italian trade 
unions evolved a whole arsenal of various means they used during 
strikes. During “intermittent” strikes, for instance, work was stopped 
successively according to a specially devised schedule, in shops 
or enterprises closely linked to one another by a continuous pro¬ 
duction process. The life of the enterprise at which such a strike 
was called was fully or almost fully paralysed, although the bulk 
of the personnel was not officially taking part in the strike. A simi¬ 
lar idea underlied staggered strikes, when work was stopped at ev¬ 
ery other production section. A variety of the staggered strikes was 
the odd and even strike, when two groups of workers at the same 
enterprise went on strike in turn every other day of the working 
week. 

Thus, the participation of greater numbers of workers in strikes 
was ensured not only and not so much by increasing the number 
of complete stoppages and the number of people involved in them 
but by partial stoppage of production, slowing down the tempo of 
work and the like. It is natural that these cases were often over¬ 
looked by official statistics. 

A relative decline in the campaign of strikes observed in the 50s 
in some countries gave a new lease of life to the old bourgeois and 
left-wing revisionist theories about the decline of the labour move¬ 
ment, its forfeiting the revolutionary spirit and becoming “bour- 

















WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


109 


geois”. The groundlessness of this theory can he revealed, among 
other things, by indicating that the temporary decrease in the num¬ 
ber of strikes and their participants was not, contrary to the allega¬ 
tions of the supporters of the above theory, a persistent and lasting 
tendency. Moreover, the workers 1 active participation in strikes has 
never been regarded by the Marxists as the sole or at least the prin¬ 
cipal indicator of the level of development of the class struggle. 
A considerable percentage of the workers 1 socio-economic gains was 
the outcome of the pressure exerted by the trade unions on the 
employers in the course of collective bargaining. This pressure did 
not necessarily culminate in strikes. Furthermore, many concess¬ 
ions were wrenched as a result of the workers’, above all Commu¬ 
nist parties 1 , activity in parliament, local government bodies and 
elsewhere. 

As a rule, the weightiest results were achieved in urging im¬ 
provements in the workers' living standards. This can be accounted for 
by many factors, above all, by the improvement of the economic sit¬ 
uation in almost all countries and by the fact that the overwhelm¬ 
ing majority of the working people, who suffered heavy material 
losses during the war, focused their attention and efforts on econom¬ 
ic issues. This was also due to the tactics adopted by the trade 
unions in this period. They generally avoided tackling major socio¬ 
economic problems of national importance and found it easier to 
achieve the unity of action in the labour movement by rallying its 
different trends around the slogans of the struggle for better living 
conditions. 

The workers 1 stubborn efforts were responsible for the rise in nom¬ 
inal wages in almost all developed capitalist countries. Between 
1950 and 1954, average wages in the FRG grew by 34 per cent. 1 
Between 1947 and 1952, the nominal wages in France increased 
by a factor of 2.7. 2 However, inflation seriously depreciated these 
gains. The take-home wages did not match the effort put in by 
the workers engaged in the struggle for higher wages. Between 
1950 and 1955, real wages in manufacturing industries grew by 15 
per cent in the United States, by 12.1 per cent in Britain, by 32.6 
per cent in France, by 25.4 per cent in the FRG, by 3.9 per cent 
in Italy, and by 34.1 per cent in Japan. 3 

It should be borne in mind that the reference base was relatively 
low. In most countries it was slightly above the pre-war level, and 
in some countries it was even below the pre-war level. For instance, 

1 The Position and Struggle of the Working Class in the West European 
Countries , Moscow, 1957, p. 376 (in Russian). 

2 Ibid., p. 43. 

3 Socio-Economic Problems Facing Working People in Capitalist Coun¬ 
tries, Moscow, 1974, pp. 156-157 (in Russian). 







110 


CHAPTER 2 


in 1950, the real wages in Japan were 85.4 per cent of the 1934- 
1936 wages; in France they amounted to 105 per cent of the 1938 
level and only in the FRG they grew by 46 per cent as against the 
1938 take-home wages in nazi Germany. 1 

Everywhere wages grew slower than profits and interest rates. 
As a result, despite a certain rise in the take-home wages, the share 
of wages in the national income of the developed capitalist coun¬ 
tries sometimes diminished. Whereas in 1948, wages accounted for 
31.6 per cent of Italy’s national income, in 1953 they accounted for 
only 30 per cent. 2 

Consequent to the long and bitter struggle waged by the working 
people in the late 40s and the first half of the 50s the working 
week was shortened. By the mid-50s, the average working week in 
West European countries was about 43 and in the United States 
40 hours long. However, a considerable percentage of workers in 
these countries continued to toil from 45 to 48 hours a week. 

Certain, sometimes quite appreciable, achievements were gained 
by the working class of different countries in the sphere of socio¬ 
economic reforms. As has already been mentioned above, in the 
FRG the workers’ participation in the management of enterprises 
was ensured by legislation. An agrarian reform was effected in Ita¬ 
ly. On the whole, however, successes scored in this area in the late 
40s and the first half of the 50s were incomparable to those won by the 
working class in the early post-war years. The concessions wrenched 
by the working people in the period marked by the reactionary 
onslaught in the material and other spheres did not seriously affect, 
with a few exceptions, the interests of the monopoly capital and 
did not challenge its property rights and political power. They 
should be directly linked to the deepening split suffered by the 
working class in the years of the cold war, to the reactionary offen¬ 
sive and to the noticeable weakening of the political influence of 
the labour movement in developed capitalist countries. In this per¬ 
iod, the Communist parties (in France, Italy and later in Britain 
this also concerned other workers’ parties) were ousted from the 
governments; the workers’ revolutionary vanguard was ostracised; 
persistent efforts towards its political isolation were made; there 
emerged certain trends within the working-class movement which 
questioned its political independence and gravitated, both subjective¬ 
ly and objectively, towards the “integration” of the working class 
in the state-monopoly system. The main negative outcome of the 


1 Real Wages in the Period of the General Crisis of Capitalism, Moscow, 
1962, pp. 204, 277, 466 (in Russian). 

2 The Economic Position of Capitalist Countries in 1954, Moscow, 1955, 
p. 218 (in Russian). 





WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


111 


period under consideration can be described as the weakening of 
the working class’ political positions. 

However, it is far more important that the ruling class did not 
succeed in obtaining such “integration” and breaking the resist¬ 
ance of the left-wing forces. When this complicated period in the work¬ 
ing-class movement was over, the forces of democracy and socialism 
assumed the offensive, proceeding from the positions they had re¬ 
tained throughout the bitter struggle and relying on the invaluable 
experience accumulated during the years of trial. 

GROWING IDEOLOGICAL AND ORGANISATIONAL 
DELIMITATION IN THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR MOVEMENT 

The destabilisation of the unity of action of various national con¬ 
tingents of the working class established during the Second World 
War largely accounts for the weakening of the political positions of 
this class in the developed capitalist countries in the late 40s and 
the early 50s. The aggravation of the international tensions con¬ 
duced to the abrupt worsening of relations between the revolu¬ 
tionary and the social-reformist trends within the labour move¬ 
ment. 

This was largely due to the position taken by Social Democracy 
which, in the face of the notorious “Communist danger”, gave less, 
priority to criticising capitalism, advocating social programmes and 
defending specific interests of the working people. Under the slogan 
of defending democracy against “totalitarianism”, the social-refor¬ 
mist politicians agreed to setting up anti-communist, pro-Atlantic 
and pro-American blocs with bourgeois parties. Opposed to real so¬ 
cialism, social democratic ideologists maintained that the post-war 
capitalist society was the “lesser evil”. They portrayed the Com¬ 
munist parties as enemies of democracy, closing their eyes to the 
fact that Communists had made a decisive contribution to defend¬ 
ing democracy in the West. Overestimating the importance of socio¬ 
political changes that occurred in capitalist countries after the war, 
many of the spiritual leaders of Social Democracy maintained that 
social reforms and greater state intervention had altered or even 
done away with the private capitalist nature of society and that 
further evolution of class collaboration would put an end to the 
division of society into classes. 

In their programmes Social-Democratic parties mentioned social¬ 
ist goals; some of them, for instance, the SFIO, used Marxist ter¬ 
minology. However, all this stood in an increasingly sharp contrast 
with their anti-communist practices. The opportunist policy vis-a- 
vis the monopoly capital did not prevent many Social Democrats 
from harbouring illusion about their role being that of a “third 








112 


CHAPTER 2 


force” independent both of capitalism and communism. 1 The illu¬ 
sion was bolstered by the Social Democratic parties’ opposition to 
the attempts to revive fascism and by their support to parliamen¬ 
tary democracy and working people’s immediate demands. However, 
by causing a split in the working class, Social Democracy strongly 
limited the opportunities for a successful struggle. 

Just as before, there were various factions and groups within So¬ 
cial Democracy. As a matter of fact, they can be divided into three 
main trends: the right-wingers (Ernest Bevin, Giuseppe Saragat, 
Paul-Henri Spaak, Kurt Schumacher, Karl Renner and others) who 
played the leading role in international social democratic politics 
and persistently urged to “integrate” the labour movement in the 
state-monopoly system; the centrists (L. Blum, T. Katayama, R.H.S. 
'Crossman and others) who sought to combine the advocacy of anti¬ 
communism and class collaboration with the defence of working 
people’s interests; the left-wingers (Pietro Nenni, Lelio Basso, Er¬ 
win Scharf, Mosaburo Suzuki, Konni Zilliacus, and others) who 
tried to prevent the Social Democrats from breaking with the Com¬ 
munists and urged to go on with the joint struggle for democracy 
and social justice. The latter group generally found itself in the 
minority. 

The International Socialist Consultative Committee, set up in 
1947, and renamed later into the Committee of International So¬ 
cialist Conferences (COMISCO), conduced to the consolidation of 
the right-wingers and the centrists and promoted the unification of 
the majority of Social Democratic parties on an anti-communist ba¬ 
sis. The COMISCO fully supported the Atlantic foreign-policy course, 
which brought about the Marshall Plan, the NATO and the Eu¬ 
ropean Council and proclaimed the United States the bulwark of ) 
the “free world”. The differences that emerged between Social Dem¬ 
ocratic parties on the tactical aspects of international politics did 
not prevent the COMISCO from waging a vigorous struggle against 
Communist parties and the peace movement. 

The setting up of the Socialist International (SI), an internation¬ 
al association of Social Democrats under right-wing leadership, dealt 
another blow at the international unity of the working-class move¬ 
ment. In the summer of 1951, a conference of 34 Social Democratic 
parties convened in Frankfort on the Main decided to set up an in¬ 
ternational association of parties striving after the establishment 
of “democratic socialism”. 2 The Aims and Tasks of Democratic So- 


1 To quote from R. H. S. Crossman, “what the Western socialist needs 
today is ... a critical attitude to both ideologies...” (R. H. S. Crossman, 
op. cit., p. 20). 

2 Yearbook of the International Socialist Labour Movement. 1956-1957, 
London, 1956, p. 38. 



WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


113 


cialism adopted by tbe conference was the basic programmatic doc¬ 
ument of the Socialist International. Its authors condemned capi¬ 
talism and stressed the need for replacing it by “democratic social¬ 
ism”. However, they condemned capitalism in general terms and 
called the working people to work to eliminate the consequences of 
capitalism, rather than the imperialist system as such. 1 Seeking to 
broaden the social base of their movement, the participants in the 
conference passed over in silence the history-making role and the 
basic interests of the working class. For the same purpose, they 
declared that Social Democrats’ outlook might be based on Marx¬ 
ism, as well as other teachings, including religious ones. The au¬ 
thors of the Declaration rejected forcible revolution, condemned the 
dictatorship of the working class and equated it to fascism, pro¬ 
claimed Communists “enemies of democracy” and described Soviet 
policy as “aggressive” and “imperialist”. 2 

They claimed that socialism could only be achieved through “po¬ 
litical and economic democracy” without a proletarian revolution 
and the dictatorship of the proletariat. They claimed that those cap¬ 
italist countries which had influential Social Democratic parties 
had already achieved major successes in building a new, socialist 
society. They denigrated real socialism achieved in the USSR and 
in other socialist countries and ignored its importance. While rec¬ 
ognising the desirability of instituting public ownership of the 
means of production and the necessity of economic planning, the 
authors of the Declaration deemed it possible to retain, along with 
public ownership, private ownership of the means of production 
and stressed that social justice was to be achieved through econom¬ 
ic democracy”, i.e. through workers’ participation in running 
capitalist enterprises. 3 

The Declaration called for social justice, a better life for the work¬ 
ing people freedom and universal peace, proclaiming them the goals 
of Social Democracy. However, these goals were contrasted not so 
much with those of capitalism as with those of real socialism ob¬ 
taining in the USSR and other socialist countries. Regarding the 
struggle against communism as its top-priority task, the Socialist 
International laid greater emphasis on it than on the struggle 
against capitalism. 

The Conference defined the Si’s organisational structure as a fede¬ 
ration of fully independent parties. The SI bodies—congresses, the 
Council, the Executive Committee and the Bureau—were to promote 


1 Ibid., p. 39. 

2 Yearbook of the International Socialist Labour Movement. 1956-1957, 
p. 40. 

3 Ibid., pp. 42-43. 


8-0515 






114 


CHAPTER 2 


the exchange of opinions among SI member organisations and to 
ensure the co-ordination of their activity. However, they were not 
to interfere in their affairs. The decisions adopted by SI congresses 
were not binding on the member parties. Arrived at through com¬ 
promise among various Social Democratic parties and trends, these 
decisions were a kind of a resultant indicative of the general orien¬ 
tation of social democratic development. 

More than thirty Social Democratic parties (mostly West Euro¬ 
pean ones) associated in the Socialist International had a mem¬ 
bership of 10,000,000 people. They won nearly 40,000,000 votes 
at the parliamentary elections held in the period under considera¬ 
tion. 

The first to become Socialist International’s Chairman and Sec¬ 
retary were Morgan Fillips and Julius Braunthal, respectively. Until 
the end of the 50s the Socialist International was dominated by the 
bloc of right-wingers and centrists, in which the former had a lead¬ 
ing role to play. As for the left-wingers, their forces were dispersed 
and insignificant. 

Among international organisations connected with the Socialist 
International were the International Council of Social Democratic 
Women, the International Union of Socialist Youth, the International 
Union of Social Democratic Teachers, the Latin American Secretariat 
and some others. In an effort to strengthen their posi¬ 
tions, social-reformists relied on hundreds of newspapers and 
magazines. 

While taking an active part in the cold war against the socialist 
community countries, the Socialist International was often more 
sober-minded in its stand than the aggressive circles in the impe¬ 
rialist countries. In 1953, the Third SI Congress came out in favour 
of negotiations between the Western powers and the USSR and 
urged to stop the war in Korea and conclude a peace treaty with 
Austria. The next SI Congress, held in 1955, spoke for creating a 
system of European security, universal disarmament and the set¬ 
tlement of outstanding problems, including the German issue, by 
negotiation. At the same time, it approved of the terms advanced 
by the imperialist powers and practically ruling out the possibility 
for a just settlement of international problems. 

The Socialist International did not grant any real support to the 
national liberation movements. The representatives of the SI parties 
participating in the governments of imperialist states were often 
among the organisers of the armed struggle against the national 
liberation movements in many countries, among them Madagascar, 
Egypt, Malaya, Kenya, Laos, Cambodia, Algeria, Morocco, and Con¬ 
go. Some Asian Social Democratic parties, which advocated the slo¬ 
gan of “democratic socialism” but, nonetheless, participated in the 

















WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


115 


struggle for national independence, had no trust in the Socialist 
International. Some of them refused to join it. 

In the mid-50s, the crisis of the policy of direct confrontation 
with the socialist countries became obvious. There were also signs 
of the failure of the “third force” policy. The Socialist Internatio¬ 
nal's course towards anti-communism and its efforts to contain the 
working-class movement within the limits of the existing system 
did not win greater influence for the social-reformists, contrary to 
their expectation. There was an increase in the Social Democratic 
parties’ membership and in the number of voters supporting them. 
However, the ranks of the working class were growing much 
faster. 

The SI leaders were compelled to amend their policies. This com¬ 
plicated and contradictory process was accompanied by the strife 
among social democratic trends. The left-wing Social Democracy 
was becoming more vigorous, and there emerged differences between 
the right-wingers and the centrists. In this context, even the right¬ 
wingers were forced to recognise that there was a need to change 
the social democratic course. However, we shall not describe the 
alterations and adjustments in the Social Democratic policies here, 
as that process unfolded largely beyond the limits of the period 
under the consideration. 

In the late 40s, the right-wing Social Democrats actively contrib¬ 
uted to the efforts towards disrupting the unity of the internation¬ 
al trade union movement. The split in the movement was motivat¬ 
ed by the difference in the approach to the Marshall Plan. In March 
1948, a conference of West European trade unions was held in 
London. The right-wing leaders of the TUC (Britain) and the CIO 
(USA), who held some important posts in the WFTU, succeeded 
in getting the conference’s approval of the Marshall Plan and set¬ 
ting up a trade union consultative committee. The AUCCTU (USSR), 
the CGT of France, the CGIL of Italy and many other trade unions 
associated in the WFTU frustrated the right-wingers’ attempts to 
get the WFTU Executive’s and Bureau’s approval for the Marshall 
Plan. In an effort to safeguard the unity of the world trade union 
movement and prevent its split over the Marshall Plan, the 
WFTU Executive Committee ruled that each trade union should 
be independent in working out its approach to the Marshall 
Plan. 

In the autumn of 1948, the leaders of the TUC of Britain declared 
that the WFTU was “dominated by Soviet trade unions” and 
that it had turned into “a mouthpiece of Soviet foreign policy”. 
They proposed—allegedly in the name of overcoming differences— 
to suspend the WFTU activity for a year. They hoped to use that 
time to knock together their own international union centre. The 


8* 






116 


CHAPTER 2 


AFL leaders, for their part, demanded to set up an international 
trade union centre opposed to the WFTU. In January 1949, having 
failed to push through a resolution on suspending the WFTU activ¬ 
ity, the TUC, CIO and Dutch trade unions left the session of the 
WFTU Bureau. In June 1949, the right-wingers convened a con¬ 
ference of the trade unions supporting them in Geneva. The confer¬ 
ence was attended by the representatives of 38 trade union centres 
from various countries, including the AFL and 12 international 
trade union secretariats. The preparatory committee drew up draft 
rules of an international trade union association expected to pro¬ 
mote class collaboration with the bourgeoisie and work towards 
improving the working class’ position within the framework of 
the capitalist system. The trade union conference convened 
to set up an International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 
(ICFTU) and endorse its Rules was held in November-December 
1949. It was attended by representatives of trade unions 
functioning in 59 countries and having a membership of 
48,000,000. The ICFTU was formally established in the autumn 
of 1951. 

The ICFTU leaders advanced the slogan “Bread, Freedom and 
Peace” (which certainly sounded attractive to the working people) 
and stated that their goal was to defend trade union rights, urge 
their broader participation in economic management, help the work¬ 
ers in less developed countries, support the United Nations, ensure 
workers’ participation in all international organisations, on the one 
hand, and to struggle against the ideology and policy of the Com¬ 
munist parties, on the other hand. Understandably, such a pro¬ 
gramme could only disorient the workers. 

The setting up of the ICFTU signalled a split in the internation¬ 
al trade union movement and the weakening of the working-class 
positions. The ICFTU leaders sought to participate in the cold war 
against the communist movement and the socialist world. In 1955, 
the ICFTU officially prohibited its members to maintain contacts 
with the WFTU members, especially with those in socialist coun¬ 
tries. Although most of the organisations affiliated in the ICFTl 
gravitated towards social reformism, the leaders of US trade unions, 
who rejected “democratic socialism” and put up with its supporters 
only because they were hostile to communism, persistently worked 
to establish their hegemony over the ICFTU. 

The split in the trade union movement was further aggravated 
by the fact that the Christian trade unions, which had stood aside 
from the WFTU and retained their international association 
known as the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions 
(IFCTU), also took an anti-communist stand. The existence of three 
international trade union centres divided and weakened the trade 




















WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


117 


union front in the face of the onslaught of the monopoly 
capital. 

The situation resulting from the cold war, the growing split in 
the international labour movement and its individual national con¬ 
tingents, as well as the social-reformists’ anti-communist policy 
greatly complicated the activity of the militant vanguard of the 
working class. In the context of anti-communist persecution, which 
was supported and, on many occasions, directly contributed to by 
Social Democratic leaders and functionaries, the Communist parties 
lost some of their positions. Whereas in 1946, the 23 Communist 
parties functioning in the developed capitalist countries had a mem¬ 
bership of 3,700,000, in 1956 their membership dropped to 2,900,000. 
The reduction in the membership of the Communist parties in the 
50s can be also accounted for by a new tide of anti-communism 
and by the revival of revisionism after the Twentieth CPSU Con¬ 
gress which exposed the Stalin personality cult and its conse¬ 
quences. 

In the early post-war years, the communist movement advanced 
a number of important slogans, calling for a vigorous struggle for 
peace, describing it as a major task of the labour movement and 
proclaiming the working class the standard bearer of democracy. 
However, the Communists’ selfless anti-war struggle was not infre¬ 
quently combined with outmoded methods and conceptions. They 
sometimes failed to take into consideration specific national condi¬ 
tions and to timely modify the tactics of their struggle. 

In the period under consideration, the Information Bureau of the 
Communist and Workers’ Parties, set up at the end of September 
1947 by the central committees of nine parties (from Bulgaria, 
Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, France, Cze¬ 
choslovakia and Yugoslavia) with the object of organising ex¬ 
changes of experience and co-ordinating the parties’ activities on 
the basis of mutual consent, had a great role to play in co-ordina¬ 
ting the efforts of individual Communist parties. This signalled the 
creation of an international body different from the Communist Inter¬ 
national in that it was not a worldwide directive body, but rather 
a regional, consultative and co-ordinating organisation. The Inform¬ 
bureau was assailed by the anti-communists who portrayed the 
Cominform—that was the way they called the Informbureau—as “a 
secret, worldwide, omnipotent organisation”, “a weapon in the hands 
of the Kremlin”. In actual fact, the Informbureau was an organisa¬ 
tion which set itself the goal of analysing the changed conditions 
and outlined new tasks for the working-class and communist move¬ 
ments. 

These tasks were the centre of attention of the conferences held 
by the representatives of the Communist narties associated in the 







118 


CHAPTER 2 


Informbureau in September 1947 in Poland and in November 1949 
in Hungary. The Declaration adopted at the 1947 Conference read: 
“Therefore, the Communist Parties must take the lead in resisting 
the plans of imperialist expansion and aggression in all spheres— 
state, political, economic and ideological; they must close their 
ranks, unite their efforts on the basis of a common anti-imperialist 
and democratic platform and rally around themselves all the demo¬ 
cratic and patriotic forces of the nation.” 1 

The newspaper published by the Informbureau under the title 
For a Lasting Peace, for a People's Democracy ! made a weighty 
contribution to strengthening the international communist move¬ 
ment. It summed up the parties’ experience, discussed urgent prob¬ 
lems facing them and covered general issues of the world com¬ 
munist movement. 

The Informbureau was functioning under difficult conditions 
which prevailed in the 40s and the early 50s and were aggravated 
by the impact of the Stalin personality cult and by the violation 
of the Leninist norms of party life. This affected some of the assess¬ 
ments and conclusions it made. In 1948, for instance, the Inform¬ 
bureau adopted a statement concerning the Communist Party of 
Yugoslavia. That led to a prolonged isolation of the party from 
the international communist movement and did harm to the latter. 
The errors committed by the Informbureau were used by the 
right-wing and social-reformist forces in persecuting Communists 
in capitalist countries. However, these shortcomings did 
not cancel the Informbureau’s vast contribution to the struggle 
waged by the Communists and other progressive forces against 
imperialism. 

The contacts among the Communist parties in the second half of 
the 40s and in the first half of the 50s were not confined solely to 
the Informbureau. They were much broader and took the form of 
exchanges of information and delegations, as well as bilateral talks. 
International co-operation among the Communists was essential to 
their success in resisting and counteracting the onslaught of the 
right-wing forces and expanding a mass campaign against the ag¬ 
gressive imperialist policy. 

The Communists’ leading role in defending the interests of 
the working class and other strata of the working people was 
manifested, in particular, in their initiatives aimed at setting up, 
expanding and strengthening international democratic organisations 
which ensured contacts between the Communists and the 
broad masses and mobilised the latter to the struggle against 
imperialism. 


1 For a Lasting Peace, for a People’s Democracy, November 10, 1947, p. 1. 




























WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


119 


In November 1945, on the initiative of the Communists and rep¬ 
resentatives of many democratic organisations, an International 
Women's Congress was convened in Paris. It proclaimed the foun¬ 
dation of the Women’s International Democratic Federation 
(WIDF), which united progressive women’s organisations of most 
countries. By the mid-50s, nearly 200,000,000 women from 70 coun¬ 
tries had been associated in WIDF. The World Federation of Dem¬ 
ocratic Youth (WFDY) founded in 1947 was soon joined by the 
International Union of Students (numbering nearly 6,000,000 mem¬ 
bers) . Of great importance for mobilising the younger generation 
to the struggle for peace and international friendship were the WEDY- 
sponsored international youth festivals, a series of which was held, 
since 1947, in Prague, Budapest, Berlin, and Bucharest, as well as 
the world youth week annually marked in March. By the mid-50s, 
the WFDY had united youth organisations from 106 countries. Their 
total membership amounted to 80,000,000. 

The worldwide peace movement was the broadest of all democ¬ 
ratic movements in the late 40s and early 50s. The movement’s 
main goal was to prevent another world war. It attracted represen¬ 
tatives of different organisations, people of various races and nation¬ 
alities, religious beliefs and political views, all of whom recognised 
the need to offer a vigorous counteraction to the warmongers— 
the US imperialists and their accomplices. This mass campaign was 
largely a result of the Communists’ initiative and had its roots in 
the working people’s concern about the emergence of aggressive 
imperialist blocs, such as the NATO, which was knocked together 
in 1949. The first stage of the campaign (1948-1949) was highlight¬ 
ed by the appearance of national peace centres in France, Britain 
and other countries. The World Peace Congress of cultural workers, 
held in the summer of 1948 in Wroclaw, gave a strong impetus to 
the peace movement. The Congress called for the international union 
of all peace champions. The appeals issued by the Congress were 
supported by the WFTU, by international democratic organisations 
and by many progressive public figures, scientists and artistes, 
among them John Bernal, Hewlett Johnson, Johannes Becher, Pie¬ 
tro Nenni, Emi Xiao, William Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Louis Ara¬ 
gon, Pablo Picasso, Louis Saillant, Eugenie Cotton, Ahmed Sekou 
Toure, Pablo Neruda, Ishiro Oyama, Jorge Amado. 

In the spring of 1949, Paris became the seat of the first World 
Congress of Peace Supporters. In a bid to torpedo the Congress, 
the ruling circles in France and other capitalist countries prevented 
many delegates from coming to Paris. Those who failed to get to 
Paris, gathered in Prague. The two parts of the Congress—held in 
Paris and in Prague—-showed great unanimity. The appeal they is¬ 
sued formulated the programme of the peace movement. It was sup- 







120 


CHAPTER 2 


ported by the delegates from 72 countries who represented 560 na¬ 
tional and 12 international organisations. They condemned the arms 
race and the atomic weapons, and called on the peoples to watch 
vigilantly the warmongers 1 action and to work towards peaceful 
co-operation among all nations. The Congress elected a Permanent 
Committee. It was chaired by the eminent physicist Frederic Joliot- 
Curie. The Committee mobilised the progressive forces to the cam¬ 
paign to stop imperialist aggression in Indochina, Indonesia, Ma¬ 
laya and the Philippines. It proclaimed October 2 International Day 
of Struggle for Peace. In 1949, this day was marked by progressive 
forces in 60 countries. They voiced their protest against the impe¬ 
rialists’ aggressive policy. In the spring of 1950, a campaign to col¬ 
lect signatures under the Appeal to ban atomic weapons and 
proclaim their first use a war crime, issued by the Permanent 
Committee at its session in Stockholm, was launched in many 
countries the world over. Nearly 500,000,000 signatures were 
collected. 1 

The second World Congress of Peace Supporters was held in the 
autumn of 1950 in Warsaw. It was attended by representatives of 
the progressive public from 80 countries. They denounced the crim¬ 
inal war unleashed by the imperialists against the Korean people 
and stressed the need to use all possible means to mobilise, strength¬ 
en and encourage the activity of peace supporters. The Congress 
demanded that the aggression in Korea be stopped, recognition be 
granted to the People’s Republic of China, all criminal types of 
arms—atomic, bacteriological and chemical-banned and armaments 
reduced. The Permanent Committee was transformed into the World 
Peace Council, iln the early 1951, it issued an Appeal for a Great 
Powers’ Peace Pact. The Appeal was signed by 600,000,000 people, 
The World Peace Council studied the experience of peace campaigns 
and recommended peace champions to use various forms of strug¬ 
gle, such as rallies, public polls and picketing. 

In order to involve more people in the struggle for peace, the 
World Peace Council held the Congress of Peace Supporters in Asia 
and the Pacific in the autumn of 1952; in December 1952, it con¬ 
vened the Vienna Congress of Peoples for Peace which was attend¬ 
ed, apart from active fighters for peace, by pacifists and advocates 
of neutrality. The representatives of progressive forces from 85 
countries unanimously demanded national independence and secur¬ 
ity to all peoples, insisted on the end of the war in Korea and Indo¬ 
china and on making every effort towards easing international ten¬ 
sions. Mass campaigns were organised to support Soviet proposals 


1 S. I. Viskov, The Peoples' Anti-War Coalition, Moscow, 1954, p. 51 (in 
Russian). 
























WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT AND THE COLD WAR 


121 


on negotiations among the Great Powers, to put an end to the im¬ 
perialist intervention in Korea and Indochina, to protest against the 
setting up of a “European Defence Community” and “European 
Army”, to demand a ban on the production, testing and use of nuc¬ 
lear weapons. These campaigns involved nearly 700,000.000 partic¬ 
ipants. In 1955, Delhi became the seat of the Asian Conference 
for the relaxation of international tensions, while Helsinki offered 
a venue for the World Peace Assembly attended by delegates from 
68 countries. These representative gatherings testified to the in¬ 
volvement of ever new countries and categories of people in the peace 
movement. 

By the mid-50s, the movement of peace supporters had turned 
into the broadest mass democratic movement in the world; it in¬ 
volved progressive workers, peasants, intellectuals, people from the 
urban middle classes, and those representatives of the small and 
middle bourgeoisie and even of the big bourgeoisie who were aware 
of the danger of war and the benefits of peace. The Marxist-Leninist 
parties repudiated sectarian tendencies towards turning this broad 
democratic movement into a campaign for socialism because they 
realised that it would result in the weakening of the movement and 
in the shrinking of its social base. They made every effort to expand 
it by attracting ever broader strata of the population and to enhance 
the participants’ activity in the struggle for stronger peace. It is 
on their initiative that concrete programmes of the peace movement 
were mapped out and improved, experience was summed up and 
most effective methods of struggle were recommended. The world 
peace movement developed into an important political factor that 
helped to check the activity of imperialist aggressors and, in some 
cases, forced them to retreat. Thanks to the movement, the energy 
of the progressive forces in developed capitalist and newly-free 
states was directed into the channel of common struggle against 
the danger of a new world war. It was also used to support the bul¬ 
wark of peace—the USSR and other socialist countries, i.e. the 
world system of socialism. This laid the stage for frustrating the 
warmongers’ plans, preserving peace and easing international 
tensions. 

In the mid-50s, despite the cold war and the strong pressure from 
the imperialist forces, the countries of people’s democracy, led by 
the working class, were successfully building the foundations of 
socialism. The world socialist system had expanded and grown 
stronger. This brought about a change in the balance of forces on 
the world scene and altered the military-strategic balance. Socialism 
was turning into a decisive factor of world development. The eco¬ 
nomic and social gains of socialism, the resolute rebuff offered to 
imperialist aggression and the consistent peace policy pursued by 






122 


CHAPTER 2 


the USSR and other socialist countries fostered the growth of pro¬ 
gressive forces in capitalist countries and promoted the success of 
the national liberation movement. The positions of imperialism were 
weakened by the national liberation revolutions which, by the mid- 
50s, had destroyed the colonial system in Asia and undermined the 
colonial rule in Africa. All this created new, favourable internation¬ 
al conditions for the struggle waged by the working class in the 
developed capitalist countries. 
































Part Two 


THE WORKING CLASS 
IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES 
AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF THE ADVANCE 
OF THE FORCES OF SOCIALISM 
AND DEEPENING CONTRADICTIONS 
OF CAPITALISM 






Chapter 3 

changes on the international and home fronts 

OF THE WORKING-CLASS STRUGGLE 


THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION IN 1955-1980 

The twenty-five years between 1955 and 1980 saw changes of un¬ 
paralleled significance and on an unprecedented scale in the inter¬ 
national arena. During those years all those major components of 
the international situation that were taking shape determined the 
new alignment of class forces throughout the globe. These included 
the qualitatively new positions enjoyed by socialism in the world; 
the significant extension of its practical possibilities stemming from 
the consolidation of the economy and defence potential of the social¬ 
ist community countries and from the further strengthening of 
their ideological and socio-political alliance; the emergence of doz¬ 
ens of new independent states; the transition by many of the young 
states to the path of socialist orientation, a course of progressive 
socio-economic and political development and anti-imperialist strug¬ 
gle; the further curtailment of the sphere of imperialist domination 
in the world and tangible defeats of imperialist foreign policy, above 
all those in the aggressive wars that the imperialists had un¬ 
leashed. 

A new, third stage set in in the general crisis of capitalism, and 
unlike the two which had gone before this one it was not directly 
or indirectly linked with a world war. It was the direct result of 
the change in the balance of forces in favour of socialism and of 
the weakening of imperialism. 

The changes in the international situation in that period did not 
in any way take place in accordance with a uniform pattern, or 
without any temporary reverses. The forces of imperialism and 
reaction embarked on counter-attacks several times, unleashing in¬ 
ternational conflicts and wars and fanning tension in various parts 
of the globe. The pattern of international relations in that period, 
particularly towards the end of it, showed that the imperialists had 
not by any means exhausted all their reserves. On the contrary, it 
became clear that in certain circumstances these reserves could to 






126 


CHAPTER 3 


a certain extent be increased both in material and political terms. 

Nor was the impact of international relations on the labour move¬ 
ment in the capitalist states free from fluctuations and contradic¬ 
tions during those years. The successes scored by the forces of so¬ 
cialism, peace and progress served to consolidate and accelerate the 
revolutionary process throughout the world to strengthen the posi¬ 
tions held by all its detachments, including those of the working 
class in the capitalist countries. There was a considerable increase 
in the influence of the world revolutionary process and the forces 
involved in it on almost all major aspects of contemporary world 
development. Under the influence of world events the political out¬ 
look of the labour movement as a whole had broadened and also 
that of each of its individual detachments, and there had been an 
increase in the range of methods used by the latter in the struggle 
to uphold their own interests and those of all working people in 
the world. The anti-war movement had contributed to this develop¬ 
ment in a large measure—the movement for peace, disarmament 
and detente and against the imperialists’ aggressive wars in Africa 
and South-East Asia and against the adoption of new means of 
mass destruction by the NATO countries. The struggle for peace 
brought closer together the members of the anti-war movement, 
thus facilitating the elaboration of a common approach to other 
pressing problems of the day both at home and abroad. The anti¬ 
war movement not only made active use of the achievements al¬ 
ready scored with regard to the methods of working-class struggle 
but it also served to develop and enrich those achievements. 

Yet rapid and sharp turns in world politics gave rise to certain 
difficulties for the labour movement. Typical of the period under 
discussion were the many unique combinations of circumstances in 
the international political arena which called for great working- 
class maturity and tenacity and an ability to see the true essence 
of various international processes at work, masked as they were by 
their unusual manifestations stemming from the transitional char¬ 
acter of that particular historical period, the ability to discern its 
main contradiction as that between obsolescent capitalism and so¬ 
cialism that was destined to take its place. Naturally enough, 
not all groups and trends within the labour movement in the 
capitalist countries came to grips with this task successfully or in 
time. 

Despite the complex and contradictory nature of world develop¬ 
ment between the mid-50s and the end of the 70s its main long¬ 
term tendencies remained unchanged. The world revolutionary pro¬ 
cess became far-reaching and took ever deeper root and its historic 
advance against imperialism was undeterred. The successes scored 
in this process multiplied and were consolidated and this, in its 

















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


127 


turn, served to strengthen each of the currents within the overall 
process, thus bringing nearer the day when progressive changes 
would be implemented on our planet. 

* * * 

The second half of the 50s and the early 60s were a time when 
two military-political groupings in the world consolidated their po¬ 
sitions that had taken shape in the first half of the 50s. The global 
offensive of reaction which had begun at the end of the 40s and be¬ 
ginning of the 50s had had undeniable results. The imperialists 
had set up a system of aggressive military alliances which embraced 
almost the whole of the capitalist world and was aimed first and 
foremost at the states of the socialist community and also against 
the ever-growing national liberation movement. An arms race had 
begun on a scale unprecedented in peace time, involving nuclear 
weapons as well as military programmes. Inter-state relations with 
the socialist countries had been poisoned for a long time to come: 
opportunities for mutually advantageous co-operation on the basis 
of equality between states of the two opposed systems in the eco¬ 
nomic or other spheres had been blocked or severely curtailed. The- 
forces of imperialism and local reaction succeeded in scoring cer¬ 
tain victories, as, for example, by restoring the monarchy in Iran 
in 1953, and by strengthening, for a while at least, the anti-popu¬ 
lar regimes in South Korea and South Vietnam. All in all, both the- 
economic and the military positions of capitalism in Western Eu¬ 
rope and Japan had been consolidated and entrenched. Nevertheless, 
the successes scored by the reactionaries were not as significant (nor 
as lasting as future events were to show) as the ruling circles in 
the imperialist states would have wished. The main reason for this 
was the increasingly obvious change in the balance of power in the 
world arena in favour of socialism. 

By the second half of the 50s the process of the formation of the 
world socialist system as an integrated political and ideological whole 
was in the main completed and this, in its turn, greatly extended 
the opportunities for the socialist countries to exert a constructive 
influence on the course of world development. Under the leader¬ 
ship of working-class parties in the socialist countries of Central 
and South-Eastern Europe the difficult first stage in laying the foun¬ 
dations for a socialist economic system was completed. Socialist re¬ 
lations of production also took root in China, North Korea, North 
Vietnam and Mongolia. The material and technical base was set up 
in these countries for establishing a modern economy, large-scale in¬ 
dustry and intensive agriculture, for making full use of the fore¬ 
most achievements of science and technology. These measures in 






128 


CHAPTER 3 


conjunction with the further development of fraternal co-operation 
and mutual assistance between the socialist countries made possible 
the consolidation of their economic potential and a substantial rise 
in the volume of industrial output, and facilitated the implementa¬ 
tion of many important tasks of socio-economic development. All 
in all, during the period 1955-1964 industrial production in the so¬ 
cialist countries (not counting the USSR) increased two or three 
times over, 1 while at the same time significant changes were effect¬ 
ed in the branch structure of the economy with the resultant in¬ 
crease in the share of the most progressive branches. 

Particularly important for the growth of the might of the social¬ 
ist system in this period, as before, was the development of the So¬ 
viet economy. In 1956, the Twentieth CPSU Congress made an 
assessment of the results of the selfless labour of the Soviet 
people led by the Communist Party during the fifth Five-Year 
Plan period. This plan was fulfilled ahead of schedule and signified 
an important new step towards the consolidation of the material 
and technical base of socialism and helped to strengthen the world 
socialist system. The Congress outlined the main trends of the So¬ 
viet economy and society, and chalked out the prospects for com¬ 
munist construction. The line adopted was elaborated in more detail 
and carried forward in the practical work of the Party, in the com¬ 
mitted labour of the working class and the whole Soviet people and 
in the resolutions passed by subsequent Communist Party congres¬ 
ses and Central Committee plenary meetings. The implementation 
of the measures drawn up by the Party made it possible to score 
important new successes in the development of the economy. Where¬ 
as in 1950 the Soviet industry had been producing nearly 30 per 
cent of US industrial output, this figure rose to 47 per cent in 1957 
and exceeded 65 per cent in 1964. The socialist countries’ share 
in world industrial output also climbed rapidly: from 10 per cent 
in 1937 to approximately 20 per cent in 1950, 27 per cent in 1955 
and 38 per cent in 1964. 2 

The successes in economic development enabled the USSR to 
achieve outstanding results in science and technology, in improving 
its own security and that of its allies. In October 1957, the world’s 
first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviet Union thus graph¬ 
ically demonstrating socialism’s scientific and technological poten¬ 
tial. Subsequent successes scored by the USSR in the sphere of 
space exploration demonstrated that there was nothing coincidental 
about this achievement, that it truly reflected the real achievements 


1 International Relations after the Second World War, Vol. 3, Moscow, 
'1965, p. 122 (in Russian). 

2 Ibid., p. 119. 






















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


129 


ol socialism in the socio-economic, scientific, technical and cultural 

fields. 

The decisive social force that determined the advance of social¬ 
ism was the working class of the socialist countries. In those coun¬ 
tries its ranks were swelling all the time, and its leading role in 
society was becoming more and more firmly established. As a result 
its experience and example were exerting more influence on the con¬ 
sciousness and struggle of the working class in the capitalist coun¬ 
tries. 

The imperialists and reactionaries were attempting to use forces 
hostile to socialism still to be found in some of the socialist coun¬ 
tries, and also the mistakes and miscalculations made in the course 
of socialist construction in order to sow friction between the social¬ 
ist countries and to undermine the position of the new social sys¬ 
tem. These attempts failed completely. The Communist and Work¬ 
ers’ parties in the socialist states and the whole international com¬ 
munist movement gleaned important political lessons from the 1956 
events in Hungary that were engineered by the forces of imperial¬ 
ism and internal reaction. The Meeting of the Representatives of 
the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Socialist Countries (Mos¬ 
cow, 1957) and also the Meeting of the Representatives of the Com¬ 
munist and Workers’ Parties (Moscow, 1960) elaborated and ex¬ 
pounded the main principles for relations between the socialist coun¬ 
tries, the goals and tasks of their joint struggle for the triumph of 
the new social system. In 1960, a joint programme for the further 
increase in the political and economic might of the world socialist 
system, the strengthening of its role in the world revolutionary pro¬ 
cess, was elaborated to provide a basis for the adoption of 
) fundamental principles for tbe socialist international division of 
labour. 

The foreign policy of the socialist states at that period, as before, 
was aimed at creating an international situation as favourable as 
possible for the construction of socialism and communism in the 
countries of the socialist world community, and for the greater ac¬ 
tivity of all detachments at work in the world revolutionary process, 
of the forces of peace and progress. The socialist countries were 
waging a determined and consistent struggle to achieve greater uni¬ 
ty and cohesion; to develop and consolidate relations of fraternal 
friendship and co-operation with those countries and peoples fight¬ 
ing to achieve national independence ; to bring about a radical im¬ 
provement in the system of international relations; to put an end 
to the cold war and the existence of foreign military bases; to bring 
about general and complete disarmament under strict international 
control; to further international co-operation on the basis of equal 
partnership in all possible spheres. 

9-0515 









130 


CHAPTER 3 


This struggle, which was the logical outcome of the foreign poli¬ 
cy of the working class in power and a reflection of the interests of 
working people throughout the world, achieved major successes. The 
USSR responded resolutely and without hesitation to the aggression 
unleashed by Britain, France and Israel against Egypt in 1956, 
compelling the aggressors in a very short period to abandon their 
military action and withdraw their troops. The socialist states stabi¬ 
lised the situation on the border of the German Democratic Repub¬ 
lic, thus reliably averting further attempts at subversive action 
against the democratic German state on the part of its imperialist 
neighbours. The independence of Cuba was resolutely protected, as was 
the right of the Cuban people independently to choose its path of 
socio-economic development. The USSR and the other countries 
of the socialist community adopted a consistent internationalist po¬ 
sition with regard to the ever escalating American intervention in 
the countries of Indochina. 

The socialist states’ campaigning for peace and disarmament also 
made tangible and important advances. In 1963, the Treaty Ban¬ 
ning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space 
and Under Water was initialled by the USSR, the United States and 
Great Britain, to whose signatures more than a hundred others 
have since been added. A number of meetings took place between 
the leaders of the USSR and those of the main imperialist powers. 
These meetings served to set in motion some improvement in 
international relations which was to be observed in the late 60s 
and early 70s. 

The end of the 50s and early 60s were marked by a major surge 
in the national liberation movement and major successes which had 
a long-term effect upon the whole system of international relations. 
In Africa alone, more than 30 independent states emerged from the 
ruins of the former colonial empires in that period. The popular rev¬ 
olution in Cuba served to activise the national liberation struggle 
of the Latin American peoples. During that period almost two-thirds 
of the population of our planet broke free from the yoke of colonial¬ 
ism. There was a marked increase in the number of young national 
states represented at the United Nations. While in 1955 there had 
been a mere 23, in 1964 Asian and African countries already occu¬ 
pied 59 of the 115 UN seats (35 of which were those of African 
states) ^ 

The Bandung (1955), Belgrade (1961) and Cairo (1964) con¬ 
ferences of the heads of state and government from the non-aligned 
countries laid the foundations for the policy of non-alignment and 
promoted that policy as an important factor and integral part of in- 


1 International Relations after the Second World War, Vol. 3, p. 500. 



















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


131 


ternational relations in general. These conferences, in particular the 
Cairo one, had an openly anti-imperialist flavour. 

As the colonial empires collapsed and the independence of the 
former colonies and semi-colonies was declared officially, their peo¬ 
ples were confronted by new, more complex tasks linked with the 
urgent need to select a path of development and to ensure real, 
not just nominal, independence from the former colonial powers 
and other imperialist states, to create an internal economic and po¬ 
litical structure that would encourage progressive change. A con¬ 
sistent anti-imperialist struggle was the fundamental condition for 
the solution of these tasks. In this struggle as in their efforts to 
surmount the heavy economic and social legacy of colonialism, the 
peoples of the young national states were given tremendous help and 
support by the countries of the socialist community. 

For the capitalist system the late 50s and early 60s were a pe¬ 
riod of big upheavals both at home and abroad. Conspicuous changes 
also took place in the balance of power and in the relations be¬ 
tween the capitalist countries; there was a long decline in the share 
of the US in the imperialist economy in favour of the West European 
and Japanese imperialists, although the United States retained 
its place of prominence in imperialist policy and even enhanced its 
military role within the capitalist system. 

The uneven economic development in the most advanced capital¬ 
ist countries found expression in the development of two parallel 
trends within Western Europe. The contradictions between the main 
European capitalist countries were to be observed at the same time 
as contradictions between those states taken together and the Unit¬ 
ed States. Yet active integration processes within the capitalist econ¬ 
omy served as a means of surmounting imperialist contradictions 
at least in part. This latter trend led to the formation of two rival 
groupings in Western Europe: the EEC (1957) and EFTA (1959). 

The uneven economic development in the capitalist countries also 
had political consequences. Occupied as they were with their own 
problems, the West European states and Japan left it to the United 
States to carry out its policing role in the developing world which 
the ruling circles of that country were only too happy to assume 
and to pay the price involved. This development, however, did not 
in any way reflect any major differences between the USA and the 
other capitalist countries. The imperialists of Western Europe and 
Japan obviously no longer had the practical opportunities either 
economically, or more significantly, militarily speaking, to fulfill 
s uch a role and for their own particular reasons were not indeed 
Ve ry eager to help the United States to carry out a policy aimed at 
satisfying first and foremost American interests and objectives. As 
a result of this it depended to a large extent on the US ruling cir- 






132 


CHAPTER 3 


cles in the late 50s and early 60s what kind of response capitalist 
as a system would make to a new stage in its general crisis. 

In its relations with the USSR and the other countries of the so. 
cialist community in the early 60s the US administration staked a 
great deal on the extension of its military arsenal, on the race in 
strategic arms. At the same time it set out to make wider use, i n 
its relations with the socialist countries than before, of new methods 
including negotiations, in situations, where American imperialism 
could no longer rely on sheer force in its foreign policy. In rela¬ 
tions with the young national states and the various national liber¬ 
ation movements the main emphasis was on the doctrine and prac¬ 
tice of so-called anti-insurgence wars, i.e. the blatant and direct ex¬ 
ploitation of US armed forces and support for all the most reaction¬ 
ary forces and regimes in the developing countries and also on the 
elaboration of new methods and forms of neocolonialism. Finally 
in relations with the other imperialist countries special importance 
was attached to the involvement of the countries of Western Europe 
in the elaboration and implementation of NATO nuclear strategy 
in keeping with US objectives, and to greater cohesion of the im¬ 
perialists’ major military groupings in a single all-embracing com¬ 
plex. Reflections of the imperialist offensive strategy in internation¬ 
al relations in practice were provided by the Caribbean crisis in 
the autumn of 1962, the imperialist intervention in the Congo 
(1960-1964), the beginning of open military aggression by the USA 
in Vietnam in 1964 and the US intervention in the Dominican Re¬ 
public in 1965. 

A new socio-economic and political pattern of international rela¬ 
tions came into being during the late 50s and early 60s as a result 
of the world revolutionary process. This meant that capitalism would 
from now on have to reckon with the existence of the international 
socialist community and its growing influence, with the continuing 
upsurge of the national liberation movement in other parts of the 
world. Capitalism had lost its earlier possibilities for direct “extra- 
economic” plundering of the majority of mankind which tradition¬ 
al colonialism had provided. Furthermore, in various parts of the 
world that had only recently provided capitalism with its reliable 
“rear”, the prerequisites and conditions for fundamental socio-eco¬ 
nomic change were emerging. This led the imperialist states to mo¬ 
bilise to the utmost the resources of capitalism both at home and 
abroad and in the technical-economic and socio-political spheres. 

The emergence of socialism as a leading factor in world devel¬ 
opment and other positive shifts changed the balance of class forces 
on an international and national scale. This gave rise to pro¬ 
found changes in the social policy of the bourgeoisie, compelling it 
to modify its relations with its own working class to suit the new 













INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


133 


world situation, particularly at a time when the labour movement, 
many other strata of the population and political forces in the cap¬ 
italist countries reacted sharply to the most blatant manifestations 
of the aggressive nature of imperialism, whether it be the wars 
waged by France in Indochina and Algeria, the attempts to set up mul¬ 
ti-lateral nuclear forces in Western Europe and much else besides. 
The bourgeoisie’s policy was not to let situations escalate into so¬ 
cial conflicts that would be particularly tense or dangerous for the 
existing order or that would make the class struggle flare up. Op¬ 
portunities for implementing this policy were inevitably curtailed 
both by the laws inherent in capitalism and also by the interests 
of capitalist exploitation and the activity of the most reactionary 
forces. Nevertheless, the endeavour by a large section of the bour¬ 
geoisie to avoid extreme forms of class conflict within the imperial¬ 
ist states had a noticeable effect on the actual position of the pro¬ 
letariat, on the increasingly effective class action. 

Under the influence of these same international and internal fac¬ 
tors in the foreign policy of a certain section of the ruling classes 
in the capitalist countries, a tendency gradually emerged towards 
peaceful co-existence with the socialist countries. It had come to the 
fore as early as the mid-50s in such international events as the sign¬ 
ing of the State Treaty with Austria, the Geneva agreements on 
Indochina and the summit conference of four heads of state that 
took place also in Geneva. It found expression in the increasingly 
frequent contacts and negotiations between representatives and lead¬ 
ers of socialist and capitalist states. In the early 60s the tendency 
towards the peaceful co-existence of states with opposing social sys¬ 
tems had not yet become predominant in international politics but 
it was developing, growing stronger and winning ever more support 
in the West. This tendency resulted from the whole trend of in¬ 
ternational life at this time, the course of the world revolutionary 
process, the changes in the balance of class forces in the internation¬ 
al arena. One of the ingredients of this evolution was the growing 
strength of the labour movement, and also that of the peace move¬ 
ment closely linked with the former in the advanced capitalist coun¬ 
tries. This last circumstance stood out particularly clearly in the 
second half of the 60s, when broad strata of society in the capitalist 
countries campaigned for a relaxation of world tension. 

Yet the opposite tendency was still strong as events in the sec¬ 
ond half of the 60s were to show. It was precisely during those 
years that the imperialists’ foreign-policy adventures endangering 
world peace were launched, in particular in the Middle East (the 
Six Day War in June 1967) and in Indochina (where American 
aggression against Vietnam reached its peak in 1968). These and 
other aggressive acts by the imperialists introduced considerable 






134 


CHAPTER 3 


tension into the international situation leading to various crisis si- 
tuations, poisoning the political atmosphere in the world more than 
ever. These adventures demonstrated the danger and futility of ag. 
gressive policies in the contemporary situation and led not merely 
the general public, but also the ruling circles in a number of Wes¬ 
tern countries, to look for new, more realistic and constructive paths 
to resolve controversial international problems. Aggressive actions 
by the imperialists made the world situation more difficult and they 
brought in their wake a high degree of political and purely military 
danger. Precisely for this reason they made it imperative to search 
for political ways out of the aggression spiral and the arms race in¬ 
to which the policies of the most irresponsible imperialist circles 
were drawing international relations. This search, when organised 
sincerely and on a basis of good will, always met with responsive 
understanding from the socialist community, which had come for¬ 
ward in the late 60s with a number of important new foreign 
policy initiatives. 

By the end of the 60s socialism appeared as a stronger force in 
all respects. In 1971, at the 24th Congress of the CPSU it was stressed 
that during the 25 years of its existence the world socialist system 
had scored enormous successes: “From the standpoint of develop¬ 
ment of revolutionary theory and practice these have been excep¬ 
tionally fruitful years.” 1 The 70s were a period of further advance 
for the socialist countries towards advanced socialist society, to¬ 
wards communism. While in 1950 the CMEA countries were pro¬ 
ducing only a fifth of the industrial output of the industrially ad¬ 
vanced capitalist states, by 1975 this figure had risen to two-thirds. 
In 1950, the industrial output of the USSR came to some 30 per 
cent of the American figure, but by 1975 it had reached over 80 
per cent. 2 By the mid-70s the socialist countries were steadily over¬ 
taking the developed capitalist countries in rates of economic 
growth, in rates of growth for capital investment and investment in 
scientific research, and, moreover, by a considerable margin. 

The successful implementation of the Comprehensive Programme 
for Socialist Economic Integration of the CMEA Member Coun¬ 
tries, adopted in 1971, made it easier to accomplish current economic 
tasks to further the growth of the economic, scientific and technical 
potential of the socialist community as a whole and to raise the 
socialist countries’ co-operation and mutual assistance to a new, 
higher level. The CMEA exercised greater influence on world eco¬ 
nomic relations, the number of its members increased and the sphere 

1 24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Documents, 
Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1971, p. 9. 

2 1 nternational Yearbook. Politics and Economics, Moscow, 1976, p. 12 
(in Russian). 


















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


135 


of its action expanded. Political co-operation between the social¬ 
ist countries and the co-ordination of their foreign policy endeav¬ 
ours developed and became more effective. During this period the 
socialist countries came forward with a number of important joint 
initiatives in the sphere of collective security, disarmament, peace¬ 
ful settlement for the most urgent international conflicts, in partic¬ 
ular those in the Middle East and Indochina. The Warsaw Treaty 
military organisation was also made more effective and streamlined 
during this period. 

The active foreign policy of the socialist community stemming 
from the widening opportunities for the world socialist system and 
from its solidarity with other detachments of the world revolution¬ 
ary process and with progressive forces throughout the world made 
it possible to score impressive successes in the international are¬ 
na. The socialist countries resolutely repulsed the aggressive schemes 
of the American imperialists in Indochina. The selflessness and 
heroism of the Vietnamese people, combined with the crucial sup¬ 
port for their just cause provided by the Soviet Union and other 
socialist countries and progressive forces throughout the globe, end¬ 
ed in a crushing defeat for the most large-scale attempt by the im¬ 
perialists, since the Second World War, to make short work of a 
socialist state and suppress a national liberation revolution. After 
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia achieved their freedom. The most sig¬ 
nificant result of the joint efforts of the socialist states was the rec¬ 
ognition of the GDR’s sovereignty worldwide and its membership 
of the United Nations, the international ratification of the inviola¬ 
bility of the Western borders of the German Democratic Republic, 
Poland and Czechoslovakia. Socialism meanwhile had taken firm 
root in Cuban soil, the international status and authority of Cuba 
had been noticeably consolidated. 

Another fact of no small importance for the development of rela¬ 
tions between states of the two systems, and for the climate in the 
international arena as a whole, in the late 60s and early 70s was 
that, the socialist community had withstood the tests to which cer¬ 
tain of its members had been subjected and had emerged from such 
tests stronger, more experienced and more cohesive. This meant that 
a crushing blow had been dealt to the assumptions encouraged in 
certain quarters in the West in the late 60s that socialism might 
be weakened and undermined from within and that a split might 
appear within the socialist community. 

A highly sensitive factor for the most aggressive imperialist circles 
Was the achievement by the USSR of strategic parity with the 
USA with regard to missiles and nuclear weapons at the end of the 
00s and beginning of the 70s which brought a large number of mil¬ 
itary and political developments in its wake. While with the pre- 





136 


CHAPTER 3 


vious balance of power in this sphere it had been relatively easy f 0r 
the USA to provoke international crises, like the Caribbean crisis 
of 1962 or the Middle East crisis of 1967, in the new situation such 
a policy made it inacceptable for the United States to run such high 
risks, from the point of view of its own interests. 

Another important characteristic of the system of international 
relations at that time was the new role that the developing coun¬ 
tries had now assumed in world politics and economics. The general 
shift in the world political situation served to promote the further 
advance of the national liberation movement. By the mid-70s the 
emergence of new national states in place of former colonies and 
semi-colonies had been almost complete. The national liberation 
movement had entered a new stage, the main features of which 
were the endeavour of the overwhelming majority of the developing 
states to achieve real socio-economic progress and the struggle of 
the developing countries for the right of real and not just nominal 
control over their own natural resources and for a restructuring of 
the world economic order on the basis of just, democratic principles. 

This brought to the fore in the field of international relations the 
question as to the reshaping of the whole system of international 
economic ties based on the privileged position of the largest monop¬ 
olist associations and imperialist powers. The capitalists reacted 
to the just demands of the developing countries with the concep¬ 
tion of so-called “economic security” that was to become wide¬ 
spread in the West during the late 70s and which presented the 
West’s system of economic and trade links as an integral part of 
its overall “national security interests”. A further ramification of 
this conception in the late 70s and early 80s was the decision taken 
—within the framework of the Carter doctrine—regarding the 
possibility that American nuclear weapons might be used in the 
area of the Persian Gulf allegedly to “protect the security” of the 
oil routes and also so as to set up a rapid deployment force with 
which to effect intervention in various parts of the globe. 

Despite all socio-economic differences and the far from uniform 
nature of the home and foreign policies of the developing states, 
their actions to restructure the world economic order, to uphold 
the principles of equality in international relations, a renunciation 
of force and threat of force and non-interference in the internal 
affairs of other states were objectively directed against imperialism, 
its economic domination and the traditional forms and methods of 
its policy. 

The second half of the 60s and the early and mid-70s were 
marked by a further increase in the difference between the levels 
of economic and political development from one imperialist power 
to another. 

















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


137 


In Western Europe and Japan, the process of state-monopolistic 
economic regulation had progressed further than in the United States 
in conditions of less acute confrontation over this question with¬ 
in the ruling class and of less severe cyclical recessions in produc¬ 
tion. It was also clear that the West European countries with their 
experience of capitalist integration, co-ordinated monetary and finan¬ 
cial policies, on the one hand, and socio-economic policies, on the 
other, were better prepared for solving problems arising in relations 
with developing countries than Japan and in particular the USA. 
All these factors made the development of the main imperialist 
centres of power more uneven and led to changes in the economic 
balance of power within the capitalist system that were not in the 
United States’ favour. 

The beginning of the 70s was the time of serious setbacks for 
the imperialist policy of cold war and military confrontation, when 
there was a reduction in international tension and an improved po¬ 
litical atmosphere in the world. The decisive contribution towards 
this was that of the consistent and principled policy of the social¬ 
ist community countries led by the USSR aimed at the implemen¬ 
tation of their Programme for Peace and later of their Programme 
for the Further Fight for Peace and International Co-operation, for 
the Freedom and Independence of the Peoples, adopted at the 24th 
and 25th CPSU congresses. 1 The policies of the socialist community 
were aimed at curbing the aggressive acts of the imperialists and 
at the same time to create a firm and broad base for the peaceful 
coexistence of states with different social systems and to develop 
mutually advantageous co-operation between them on the basis of 
equality. 

Thanks to the efforts of the socialist states and many other coun¬ 
tries and despite stubborn resistance from imperialist circles it 
proved possible in the late 60s and early 70s to advance in certain 
spheres towards restrictions on the arms race, even in ,the most dif¬ 
ficult field of all, that of strategic arms. Despite attempts by the 
opponents of peaceful coexistence to set off one state against another,, 
tangible progress was achieved, particularly in Europe, towards a 
normalisation of relations between states with different social sys¬ 
tems and the establishment of political contacts, commercial and 
economic ties, scientific, technical and cultural links between them. 
Particularly important in this connection was the Conference on 
Security and Co-operation in Europe convened on the initiative of 


1 For further details regarding the implementation of the foreign policy 
directives of the 24th and 25th CPSU congresses, see N. N. Inozemtsev, The 
Leninist Path for the International Policies of the CPSU, Moscow, 1978 (in 
Russian). 






138 


CHAPTER 3 


socialist diplomacy which had put a great deal of effort into this 
task. This Conference and its Final Act adopted at Helsinki marked 
a defeat for the cold war proponents, the forces of reaction in 
Europe and worldwide, and a major breakthrough for realism and 
good will. 

As events were to demonstrate in the mid-70s, against this back¬ 
ground of detente, the struggle of progressive, democratic forces for 
the economic and political rights of the working people and against 
reactionary regimes developed more freely and on a wider scale. 
In April 1974 in Portugal and in July 1974 in Greece, fascist dicta¬ 
torships were overthrown and prospects of democratic development 
now opened up before these countries. Events such as the decision 
by the new Portuguese regime to put an end to that country’s 
colonial war in Africa and Greece’s withdrawal from NATO’s 
military organisation, possessed in their turn positive significance 
for an improved international situation. In 1976-77, the Franco re¬ 
gime in Spain virtually fell apart and the country embarked upon 
a complex period of democratisation needed to wipe out the legacy 
of Francoism. 

The change in the international situation created favourable con¬ 
ditions for the advance of the national liberation movement and 
enabled the peoples of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola and 
other newly-free countries to score historic victories. 

Successes in the world revolutionary process, the increasingly 
effective struggle waged by the forces of socialism, peace and pro¬ 
gress for positive change in the world, led to mounting opposition 
from the most reactionary circles in the imperialist camp. This was 
also due to the serious internal difficulties which capitalism had to 
confront in the 70s: the economic crisis of 1974-1975 and recessions, 
unprecedented rates of inflation, an exacerbation of internal social 
problems and contradictions between imperialist countries. It was 
pointed out at the 26th Congress of the GPSU: “The difficulties ex¬ 
perienced by capitalism also affect its policy, including foreign pol¬ 
icy. The struggle over basic issues of the capitalist countries’ for¬ 
eign-policy course has grown more bitter.” 1 Moreover, the nature 
•of the clashes within the ruling classes of the imperialist states had 
become noticeably more complex. 

The overall course of events in the 70s confirmed Lenin’s analy¬ 
sis of the role of force as the main spontaneous regulating factor 
for capitalist relations in all spheres of imperialist foreign policy. 
Clearer distinctions were, however, drawn between the various ap¬ 
proaches shown by the ruling class to the paths and methods which 
might enable it to use force in the international arena. Some mo- 


1 Documents and Resolutions. The 26th Congress of the CPSU, p. 27. 






























INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


139 


nopolistic groupings and their ideologues, under the influence of 
growing economic problems, foreign-policy setbacks and the decline 
in the confidence about the future of capitalism came to the con¬ 
clusion that it was necessary to set up new, more sophisticated 
means and techniques for a policy based on a show of strength, 
paying particular attention to consolidating solidarity of world cap¬ 
italism and to achieving greater co-ordination between the domestic 
and foreign policies of the capitalist countries. Others, putting for¬ 
ward as their main political credo the demand that more active use 
he made of “tried” and traditional forms of aggressive policy, place 
the main emphasis on the relatively narrower selfish interests of 
individual capitalist states. Yet in a certain section of the ruling 
class, among the more realistically-inclined Western political lead¬ 
ers, an awareness was gradually emerging to the effect that in the 
then conditions complex and controversial international problems 
could only be solved in an atmosphere of detente and constructive 
co-operation between the states of the two opposing social systems 
as equal partners. 

The forces of imperialism and reaction, which in the early 80s 
embarked on a counter-offensive aimed at reversing the major im¬ 
provement in the international situation and were inspired by the 
desire to restore to imperialism its former power and influence, 
were counting on the internal reserves of their own system. At the 
same time they were bearing in mind certain features of internation¬ 
al life in the late 70s and early 80s and promoted their subse¬ 
quent development along a course that would serve the interests of 
the imperialists. 

One of these features was the profound economic and socio-polit¬ 
ical differentiation of the developing countries and the vastly un¬ 
even nature of their internal economic and social development. While 
some newly-independent countries had embarked on the path of 
socialist orientation or were developing along socialist lines and 
implementing progressive socio-economic reforms to put an end to 
the colonial legacy and to all types of relations based on exploita¬ 
tion without exception, in others capitalism had emerged as a dom¬ 
inant economic structure. In the latter half of the 1970s, a number 
of Asian, African and Latin American countries saw the appearance 
of pro-imperialist regimes which had the direct support of local 
reactionaries and which conspired with the imperialist, neo-colonial¬ 
ist circles from the West to participate with them in the offensive 
against the progressive national-democratic states and the national 
liberation movement. 

Making full use of the above developments and in an effort to 
hold back the recent advances in the world, the forces of imperial¬ 
ism, in particular the United States and NATO, began speeding up 






140 


CHAPTER 3 


the arms race aimed at achieving military superiority over the 
USSR and other socialist countries and organising provocations 
against the socialist and other independent states. A further com¬ 
plication in the international situation now took place. The central 
issue in the tense confrontation in the international arena was the 
destiny of detente, peace and disarmament, and warding off attacks, 
by the imperialist circles against freedom, independence and secu¬ 
rity of the peoples of the world. 

Against this background the Soviet Union and all countries of 
the socialist community again demonstrate firm resolution in their 
foreign policy in the Leninist tradition, consistently upholding peace 
and working towards that goal in practice, as they ensure the se¬ 
curity of the socialist countries and promote international security 
in general, defiantly repulsing imperialist provocations and claims 
and at the same time come forward with wide-scale initiatives 
designed to promote and extend detente, to limit the arms race and 
effect disarmament and to foster constructive co-operation between 
the states of two diametrically opposed systems, between all countries 
everywhere. 

In the more tense international situation at the beginning of the 
80s, new proposals to consolidate international security, put forward 
at the 26th Congress of the CPSU (February 1981), played a par¬ 
ticularly important role. These presupposed a considerable extension 
of the geographical areas that engulfed confidence-building meas¬ 
ures in military matters, in accordance with the Helsinki Final Act; 
the discussion of questions linked with Afghanistan in conjunction 
with questions of security in the Persian Gulf; new Soviet-American 
talks on the limitation of strategic arms and agreement on the lim¬ 
ited deployment of specific delivery systems of nuclear warheads, 
including a moratorium on the stationing in Europe of new medium- 
range nuclear missiles and a number of other measures of a milit¬ 
ary or political character. A clear demonstration of the active and 
peace-loving character of Soviet foreign policy was to be found 
in Leonid Brezhnev’s declaration of the Soviet Union’s readiness to 
engage in dialogue with the United States at all levels, including 
the summit level as a decisive link in such a dialogue. 1 

The states of the socialist community are consistent and unshake- 
able in their support for the just struggle by the peoples for their 
freedom and independence; they take practical steps to achieve still 
closer fraternal co-operation with one another in the political, eco¬ 
nomic, defence and other spheres. 

International affairs throughout the 70s had exerted a powerful 


1 Documents and Resolutions. The 26th Congress of the Communist Party 
of the Soviet Union, p. 31. 





















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


141 


influence on the course of class struggle in the capitalist countries, 
on the labour movement. Against a background of detente the anti¬ 
communists and all enemies of the Soviet Union no longer enjoyed 
such a strong position; the labour movement and other democratic 
forces were able to campaign more actively against reactionary pol¬ 
icies of the imperialists both within the capitalist countries and also 
in the international arena. 

Increased interest in issues central to international issues and 
to the search for their solution, to the elaboration of its own for¬ 
eign-policy platform as a direct continuation of the socio-economic 
demands of the working class, was one of the most characteristic 
trends to be observed in the labour movement during the 70s. 1 
This found expression in the closer co-operation between various 
detachments within the labour movement, in the constructive dia¬ 
logue on questions of detente and disarmament and acute interna¬ 
tional problems between Communists and Social Democrats, between 
trade unions of varying political and ideological complexions. 

Broadly speaking, international developments during the 70s con¬ 
firmed as correct the conclusion drawn by the Communists to the 
effect that the reduction of international tension, the affirmation in 
relations between states of two different systems of the principles 
of peaceful coexistence “creates favourable conditions for the full 
independence and the self-determined development of countries and 
promotes the struggle of the peoples for economic and social pro¬ 
gress. It creates more favourable conditions of struggle for the 
movements for democratic and socialist transformation in the capit¬ 
alist countries.” 2 

Hence the continuing ambivalence in the policy of the imperial¬ 
ists, obliged, under pressure of circumstances, to accept in certain 
spheres detente and peaceful coexistence in their relations with the 
socialist countries, but at the same time endeavouring, wherever 
opportunities presented themselves and their strength allowed, to 
oppose progressive change. During the 70s the experience of the 
world revolutionary process demonstrated that “imperialism will 
stop at nothing, discarding all semblance of any kind of democracy, 
if a serious threat arises to the domination of monopoly capital and 
its political agents. It is prepared to trample upon the sovereignty 
of states and upon all legality to say nothing of humanism.” 3 Unity 
and cohesion of all detachments of the world revolutionary move- 


1 For more details, see chapters 7-14 of this volume. 

2 For Peace, Security, Cooperation and Social Progress in Europe, Berlin, 
June 29-30, 1976, Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1976, 
p. 40. 

3 Documents and Resolutions, The 26th Congress of the CPSU, p. 36. 






142 


CHAPTER 3 


ment constitute a well-tried and reliable weapon of the working- 
class in its struggle for the complete and conclusive liberation of 
the working people throughout the world. 

THE TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION, 
STATE-MONOPOLY CAPITALISM AND THE WORKING CLASS 

Changes which took place from the 50s onwards in the productive 
forces and relations of production under capitalism provided the 
foundation for the development of the working class in the capitalist 
countries and hence for all the activity of the labour movement. 1 

One of the most important aspects of the development of capital¬ 
ism between the 1950s and the 1980s was the technological revolu¬ 
tion affecting the pattern of social productive forces. The changes 
involved affected all the fundamental elements of that pattern, all 
spheres of socio-economic life. 

The main characteristic of the scientific and technological revolu¬ 
tion which sets in apart from all major technological revolutions of 
the past is the fundamental change it brought about in the relation¬ 
ship between science and industrial production, the transformation 
of science into a direct productive force in society. This revolution 
in productive forces was prepared by previous scientific advance 
and major scientific discoveries in the 20th century, such as the 
theory of relativity, quantum physics, the theory of elementary par¬ 
ticles, cybernetics, microbiology, polymer chemistry and so on, which 
had given a powerful boost to technological progress. In the course 
of the scientific and technological revolution research work, or the 
“discoveries industry”, had become an integral and essential part 
of productive activity: in all the main capitalist countries expendi¬ 
ture on research and development had been increasing two or two 
and a half times as quickly as capital investment as a whole since 
the mid-50s. Since that time science and industry began to form a 
single complex on the basis of the latest achievements in science 
and technology. Thus, this period saw a new synthesis of science, 
technology and industrial production. Research centres and laborato¬ 
ries were being integrated into the overall structure of large firms; 
universities and other scientific establishments were catering more 

1 For further details, see The Political Economy of Modern Monopoly 
Capitalism, Vols. 1-2, Moscow, 1975; S. L. Vygodsky, Present-day Capitalism 
(Experience of a Theoretical Analysis), Moscow, 1975; S. I. Tyulpanov, 
V. L. Sheinis, Current Problems in the Political Economy of Modern Capital¬ 
ism, Leningrad, 1973; Yu. A. Vasilchuk, The Scientific and Technological 
Revolution and the Working Class under Capitalism, Moscow, 1980 (all in 
Russian). For works by Marxists from other countries see Le capitalisme 
monopoliste d’Etat, Vols. 1-2, Paris, 1971; Imperialismus heute. Der staats- 
monopolistische Kapitalismus in Westdeutschland, Berlin, 1967. 




















INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


143 


and more directly for the needs of industry. The time it took for 
industry to master and incorporate scientific discoveries in produc¬ 
tion was reduced from 30 years (at the beginning of the 20th cen¬ 
tury) to a mere 5-7 years in the 60s and 70s. 1 

The scientific and technological revolution found expression in 
the far-reaching and highly diverse changes in machinery and the 
techniques of production. Fundamentally new means of labour ap¬ 
peared on the scene and were widely adopted: programme controlled 
machine-tools, integrated automated systems, and industrial ro¬ 
bots. The mechanical processing of materials was being replaced 
more and more by electro-chemical and electro-physical processing. 
Sources of power also underwent change: there was a sudden leap 
in the importance of oil and natural gas in the fuel and power bal¬ 
ance, and nuclear energy began to be used. In connection with the 
energy crisis prospects are now being investigated for the use of 
synthetic liquid fuel, solar energy, geothermal power, wave and 
wind power. One of the main fields in which technological progress 
was to be observed was the wide-scale introduction of advanced 
chemical techniques in production, the scale and economic effective¬ 
ness of which were on a par with mechanisation or automation 
(in the United States, for example, the share of chemical fibres in 
materials used in the textile industry increased from 10.1 to 57 per 
cent between 1940 and 1970. 2 This and other spheres of technolog¬ 
ical progress led to the widespread use of raw materials with preset 
properties (plastics, synthetic fibres, chip board, etc.) and to major 
changes in the raw-material base for industry and construction 
projects. 

One of the most important aspects of the scientific and technolog¬ 
ical revolution which has far-reaching socio-economic consequences 
was the restructuring of agricultural production on the basis of its 
mechanisation, electrification and more intensive use of fertilizers, 
and the introduction of the latest methods in selection and genetic 
investigation. This led to a rapid rise in labour productivity in agri¬ 
culture and to an enormous economy in man-hours. 

The appearance and wide-scale adoption of computers—funda¬ 
mentally new work tools—had a revolutionising impact on the whole 
of man’s working life. Between 1960 and 1970 the number of com¬ 
puters in use in the developed capitalist countries multiplied sev¬ 
eral dozens of times. A new boost to this process was provided by 
the creation of cheap computors—microprocessors. Successful minia¬ 
turisation paved the way for a new stage in the automation of pro¬ 
duction, which could now be controlled electronically at all levels, 


1 The Political Economy of Modern Monopoly Capitalism, Vol. 1, p. 90. 

2 Ibid. 







144 


CHAPTER 3 


ranging from single components of equipment to major production 
complexes. Not only do computers provide a powerful stimulus fop 
the development of large-scale automation and self-regulating pr 0 „ 
duction processes but they also lead to an economy ■ of intellectual 
work, to an enormous rise in the productivity of man’s intellectual 
activity in management and a number of other spheres, thus increas¬ 
ing the opportunities for that intellectual effort to be devoted to 
creative tasks. 

One of the most important socio-economic aspects of the scientific 
and technological revolution, a direct consequence of and at the 
same time prerequisite for technical and technological advances is 
the profound change it has brought about in the nature and content 
of labour. The reduction in the share of physical work and simple 
brain work in productive activity and the increased role of the intel¬ 
lectual (and that includes creative) functions of labour in the man¬ 
agement of complex systems and processes constitute the main 
trend in this sphere, which is constantly being accelerated by the 
ongoing scientific and technological revolution. As will be pointed 
out below, it has an important impact on the evolution of the quali¬ 
fications and skills patterns required of the working class and other 
strata of the working people. It is essential at the same time to 
stress as forcefully as possible, that we are confronted here by a 
trend which in the early stage of the scientific and technological 
revolution could not, of course, affect the nature and content of the 
labour of the whole work force to the same extent. Under capital¬ 
ism, where every technical innovation is possible only insofar as it 
furthers capitalist exploitation and increases profit, the capitalist 
interest in many situations holds back the development of the trend 
in question and preserves technically backward types of labour. 
Nevertheless, capitalism of the 50s, 60s and 70s, taken as a whole, 
was marked by major changes not only in the material aspects of 
productive forces—the instruments and means of production, but 
also in its qualitative aspects, in the structure of its most import¬ 
ant element—the aggregate labourer, since a thorough change had 
now come about in the role of man in production. This whole range 
of changes was inextricably bound up with the transition from a 
predominantly extensive type of economic growth to an intensive 
one, a feature typical of the capitalist economy of the present pe¬ 
riod: more effective production on the basis of scientific and techno¬ 
logical progress, improved organisation and management, and a cor¬ 
responding growth in the proportion of brain work and labour in¬ 
volving complex skills become the most important factors in the 
multiplication of social wealth. 

Changes in the structure of the capitalist economy stemming 
from the impact of the scientific and technological revolution have 








INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


145 


exerted a strong influence on the composition and structure of the 
working class. 

First of all, the scientific and technological revolution and the 
increased productivity stemming from it particularly in material 
production, the broadening spheres of management, information 
technology and education, etc., and also the growth of the bureau¬ 
cratic machine that was an inherent feature of state-monopoly cap¬ 
italism, and a number of other social processes greatly enhanced 
the importance of such branches of the economy as the distribution 
and services sectors. In the 70s, in a number of capitalist coun¬ 
tries, between thirty-five and forty per cent of the work force 
were employed in these spheres, while in the United States, 
Canada, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden these 
sectors accounted for more of the work force than material 
production. 

Secondly, changes in the balance between industry and agricul¬ 
ture had also taken place and the balance had swung in industry’s 
favour, iln the majority of advanced capitalist countries, industry 
employed significant sections of the work force. In countries such 
as the United States, Britain, West Germany, and France agricul¬ 
ture in the 1970s accounted for merely between two and ten per 
cent of the work force. 1 

Thirdly, structural changes had taken place within industry it¬ 
self: the extractive industries and various branches of light industry 
now accounted for a smaller share than before, while mechanical 
engineering, particularly electro-mechanical engineering, the elec¬ 
tronic, chemical and electric power industries became more prom¬ 
inent. In the United States, mechanical engineering accounted for 
30 per cent of the whole of industrial output in the 70s and the 
chemical and electric power industries for close on 15. 2 

Fourthly, and lastly, as is clear from the above, the scientific and 
technological revolution went hand in hand with a significant en¬ 
hancement of the economic role of science and scientific establish¬ 
ments. 

These processes created the economic basis for substantial changes 
in the structure of the working class, in the semi-proletarian 
strata of society and those being gradually drawn into the proleta¬ 
riat, and in the network of its social ties and alliances. 3 Despite 
bourgeois theories announcing the decline of the former role of the 
working class in the economy of post-industrial society, these proc- 


1 Yearbook of National Accounts Statistics, Vol. II, New York, 1977, 
pp. 84, 109-115. 

2 Ibid., p. 292. 

3 See Chapter 4 of this volume. 

10-0515 








146 


CHAPTER 3 


esses served to strengthen the leading role of that class, and par- 
ticularly that of its industrial nucleus, in economic progress. This 
was reflected, in particular, in the fact that the growing detach¬ 
ments of the proletariat were drawn first and foremost into the most 
dynamic and technically progressive branches of production. 

The growth in concentration of production resulting from the 
scientific and technological revolution had a direct bearing upon 
the working class and the labour movement. This found expression, 
first of all, in the wider scale of industrial enterprises, in the concen¬ 
tration of the larger part of production and the work force from in¬ 
dividual branches of the economy in the biggest enterprises. By the 
end of the 60s in the United States, France and Japan factories 
with a thousand workers or more had produced 36.9, 42.1 and 34.4 
per cent respectively of the gross industrial output. In such branches 
of American industry as mechanical engineering for transport, me¬ 
tallurgy, electro-mechanical engineering and instrument-making 
76.8, 53.8, 52.7 and 43.3 per cent of the respective work force were 
concentrated in factories employing a thousand or more people. 1 
Concentration increased rapidly not merely in industry but also in 
the services sector. In the US retail trade, for example, outlets for 
firms with a turnover of a million dollars or more accounted for 
only 2.8 per cent of the total number in 1967, but these employed 
34.2 per cent of the work force, and their share in the overall vol¬ 
ume of the retail trade was 42.8 per cent. Yet the process of concen¬ 
tration affecting the size of individual factories was far from uni¬ 
form. In a number of branches of industry, particularly in light in¬ 
dustry and in highly concentrated branches such as mechanical en¬ 
gineering and metallurgy, medium-sized factories (employing be¬ 
tween 100 and 500) remained for the most part stable and main¬ 
tained the same share of industrial output as before. In the non¬ 
industrial branches of the economy, medium-sized and small enter¬ 
prises were still more typical. 2 

Secondly, the scientific and technological revolution served to ac¬ 
celerate significantly the process of the monopolistic centralisation 
of production and capital at the level of individual companies, which 
now began to assume new forms. In its pace and scale this process 
was far in excess of the concentration at the level of individual en¬ 
terprises and it led to a sharp increase in the monopolistic character 
of modern capitalism. The 200 largest companies in the US process¬ 
ing industries accounted for 30 per cent of total output in 1947, but 
this figure had risen to 44 per cent in 1970, although they account- 

1 Mirovaya Ekonomika i Mezhdunarodniye Otnosheniya, No 1 1970, 

pp. 153-156; No. 2, p. 147. 

2 The Political Economy of Modern Monopoly Capitalism, Vo]. 1_ 
pp. 117-119. 



















international and home fronts of struggle 


147 


ed for l ess ^ an one P er cen ^ enterprises in the field, de¬ 

spite owning over 60 per cent of its capital. In Japan, at the begin¬ 
ning of the 70s, the largest companies, which made np 0.9 per cent 
of the total number, owned approximately 86 per cent of the total 
share capital; in the Federal Republic of Germany, 4.7 per cent of 
companies owned 64.7 per cent of the share capital. 1 

A new phenomenon in the development of the monopolistic con¬ 
centration was the fact that it now extended beyond national fron¬ 
tiers, and powerful multinational companies began to emerge to play 
a far greater role in the economy of capitalism. The process of mo¬ 
nopolisation was particularly intensive in those branches of produc¬ 
tion brought into being by the scientific and technological revolu¬ 
tion. The American concern IBM accounts for between 70 and 75 
per cent of the computors produced in the capitalist world. Yet in 
the main capitalist countries a small number of very large monopo¬ 
lies completely dominate some other branches of industry. In 
the United States motor industry, the three largest companies pro¬ 
duce 90 per cent of the cars, in Britain four companies produce 
75 per cent, in France four companies produce all cars, while in 
Italy one company accounts for 90 per cent of car production. A 
similar situation is to be found in the oil-processing, chemical, and 
metallurgical industries and in a number of other branches. For the 
capitalist economy the 50s and 60s were a period in which many 
firms merged and in which medium-sized and small enterprises be¬ 
came far more dependent on the largest monopolistic companies, so 
that many of the former virtually turned into branches of the mo¬ 
nopolies. 

One of the most characteristic features of the monopolistic con¬ 
centration in the 50s and 60s was the widespread appearance of so- 
called vertical integration and diversification, i.e. the growth of the 
power and economic importance of the monopolies (concerns and 
conglomerates), each of which embraced not just one particular 
branch of industry (this was typical of the early 20th century) but 
several. In the United States, the number of major companies 
operating in more than 15 branches of industry doubled in 
the 60s. One and the same firm would be producing consumer 
goods and industrial equipment, extracting raw materials and 
processing them, becoming involved in the services sector and 
banking. 

Increased concentration of production and capital led, as in the 
past, to a growing concentration of the working class, and to the 
latter becoming more closely tied to large-scale production. This 
meant that the proletariat was in a better position to fight for its 
rights and had better prospects for organising and co-ordinating its 
1 Ibid., pp. 126-127. 


10 * 








448 


CHAPTER 3 


activities, and for bringing its influence to bear on economic and 
social life. The further monopolisation of the capitalist economy and 
the new forms and trends which this process assumed under the im¬ 
pact of the scientific and technological revolution, helped to over¬ 
come the former divisions between trades and branches of industry 
that had divided certain detachments of the proletariat one from the 
other. Parallel to the increase in the internal diversity of its compo¬ 
sition as regards professional skills and qualifications, new precon¬ 
ditions for the development of the working class as a single social 
entity were taking shape. 

Under the influence of monopolisation in the capitalist world a 
new alignment of social forces is coming to the surface: new prom¬ 
inence has been acquired by the role of the monopoly bourgeoisie 
in the exploitation of the working class and other strata of the 
working population, thus indirectly preparing the ground for the 
coming together of the various groups of the proletariat and non¬ 
proletarian strata and of working people from the capitalist and 
developing countries in their struggle against the single international 
system of monopolistic oppression. 

The significance of the scientific and technological revolution for 
the working class in the capitalist countries is by no means limited 
to its influence on its position and development, on the immediate 
conditions of its life and struggle. Against the background of the 
peaceful coexistence of the two opposed social systems the utilisa¬ 
tion of the scientific and technological revolution is becoming one 
of the most important sectors for the struggle and competition be¬ 
tween socialism and capitalism: as that utilisation develops the gen¬ 
eral crisis of capitalism will become more comprehensive and the 
prospects for the victory of socialism on a worldwide scale will 
improve. 

The capitalists went out of their way to use the scientific and 
technological revolution so as to achieve economic and military 
superiority over socialism, to consolidate their class domination 
and intensify their exploitation of the working class and suppres¬ 
sion of the revolutionary movement. At the same time as the scien¬ 
tific and technological revolution advances, it has become a powerful 
factor in the exacerbation of the basic contradiction inherent in 
capitalism. 

Firstly, the revolution in productive forces leads to a vast growth 
of their social character. This finds expression in the increasing scale 
of production, in the greater interdependence of all its links (and 
not merely on a national, but also on an international scale), in 
increased importance of research work, which cannot be carried 
out with the necessary degree of efficiency without mobilisation of 
social resources and social organisation of the research. The frame- 























INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


149 


work of capitalist ownership is becoming more and more restrictive 
for the new productive forces. 

Secondly, the scientific and technological revolution results in 
an abrupt increase in the pace of all economic and social processes, 
leads to rapid change in the volume and structure of consumption, 
in the conditions and way of life and brings out the closer relation¬ 
ship between those processes and production. The normal function¬ 
ing of the industrial and social fabric of society calls for a broad- 
scale advance in social consumption and the system of public serv¬ 
ices, such as health, education, transport and environmental pro¬ 
tection. Spontaneous socio-economic development that is not subject 
to social control inevitably, in these conditions, leads to catast¬ 
rophic results for society, for the working masses. 

Thirdly, the enormous scale of the social consequences of the 
scientific and technological revolution has exacerbated to an unpre¬ 
cedented extent the problem of goals of economic activity, and of 
priorities in socio-economic development. The combined power of 
science and production in the second half of the 20th century cre¬ 
ates hitherto unknown opportunities for the enrichment of men’s 
material and spiritual life and at the same time can loom as a Mo¬ 
loch disrupting and devastating men’s lives, depriving these lives of 
any firm material or moral foundation and threatening men with 
total destruction as a result of thermonuclear or bacteriological war 
and annihilating their natural environment. It is into such a mon¬ 
ster that scientific and technological progress will turn, if it is used 
without any control to promote private-capitalist profit and exploit 
and escalate the arms race. In the hands of the monopolies new 
productive forces turn, in large measure, into destructive forces. 
Enormous funds and effort are spent on the creation, accumulation 
and the perfection of ever more powerful means of mass destruction. 

As the scientific and technological revolution advances, its role 
as a factor that deepens the “old” and exacerbates the new economic 
and social contradictions inherent in capitalism comes more and 
more to the fore. The instability of the position of working people 
in production and the growth of unemployment, the inadequate pro¬ 
vision of what society needs in terms of education and health care, 
crises of urban development, the ecological, raw-material and ener¬ 
gy, and currency crises, the growth of inflation, aggravated to a 
large extent by the militarisation of the economy, all these and 
many other phenomena linked in one way or another with the scien¬ 
tific and technological revolution can in the final analysis be traced 
back to one common denominator—the increasing economic and so¬ 
cial instability of the capitalist system. This became ever more 
apparent in the late 70s and early 80s. 

The scientific and technological revolution has thus underscored 








150 


CHAPTER 3 


the fundamental problems intrinsic to that social system and demon¬ 
strated the bankruptcy of capitalism, its inability to place scientific 
and technological progress at the service of social progress. New 
opportunities are now at hand for the working class in the capital¬ 
ist countries to wage their fight for the socialist transformation 
of society and there are new stimuli for this struggle and for an 
advance in the social awareness of the proletariat. 

# 

In social relations, including production, and in the ideological 
and political superstructure of capitalist society the development 
of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism (SMC) was 
the crucial process determining changes in the conditions in which 
the labour movement was able to act. This process was closely bound 
up with new developments in productive forces ushered in by the 
scientific and technological revolution: the continuing scientific and 
technological revolution stimulated the development of SMC in the 
capitalist countries. In its turn, the restructuring of the capitalist 
economy along these lines served to accelerate scientific and techno¬ 
logical progress. As pointed out earlier, the scientific and technolo¬ 
gical revolution accelerated the concentration and monopolisation 
of the capitalist economy. In this way it contributed towards the ex¬ 
tension of the monopolies’ economic domination and lent more 
weight to the influence of those wielding political power, a crucial 
precondition for the development of state-monopoly capitalism. 

The reasons calling forth this development cannot, however, be 
confined to the production, technology and economy of capitalist 
society. The development of monopoly capitalism into SMC is the 
direct result of the new balance of class forces in the world as a 
whole and in individual capitalist countries that had taken shape 
after the Second World War and of the rapid worsening of the 
general crisis of capitalism. The state-monopolistic trends emerged 
as early as the First World War and it was precisely on the exper¬ 
ience of that period that Lenin had based his brilliant analysis of 
this particular process. At the beginning of the 30s, under the- im¬ 
pact of those catastrophic upheavals that capitalism experienced 
during the Great Depression, these trends intensified again. Yet it 
was only in the late 40s and early 50s that the development of 
SMC proceeded without interruption, embracing all capitalist coun¬ 
tries: its scale and impact on capitalism led to irrevocable qualita¬ 
tive changes in the basis and superstructure of capitalist society. 
These were accounted for by the new level of growth in the produc¬ 
tive forces, the rise in their social character but in equal measure 
by the need of the ruling class for new, more effective means of 


































INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


151 


protecting its position and interests at a time when the power and 
influence of world socialism were growing apace and when there 
had been a major intensification of the revolutionary process. 

The active intervention by the bourgeois state in the nation’s 
•economic and social life, which previously had only come about in 
emergencies, such as war or economic crises, was now becoming an 
integral part of the bourgeois state’s activity of upholding the exist¬ 
ing social order and an essential condition for the normal function¬ 
ing of capitalist production. The main objectives of this interven¬ 
tion were to defend capitalism’s position in the competition and 
struggle against socialism, to soften the impact of cyclical and struc¬ 
tural crises, to stimulate scientific and technological progress, to 
create conditions favourable for capitalist accumulation, to “control” 
class relations in keeping with the interests of monopolies so as to 
avert any sudden deterioration of those relations, which could lead 
to revolutionary crises. 

The essence of SMC lies in merging the forces of monopoly capi¬ 
tal and the forces of the state into a single mechanism. In various 
capitalist countries this mechanism took shape in forms predeter¬ 
mined by the concrete situations which obtained in each of them 
in the post-war years (including the conditions of the economy, the 
correlation of class forces and other factors). There were also dif¬ 
ferences in the pace at which SMC developed in the various coun¬ 
tries and regions of the capitalist world. 

The two main trends in state-monopolistic socialisation were pub¬ 
lic enterprise and state regulation of the economy. In a number 
of West European countries—France, Italy, Britain, Austria—where 
the large-scale nationalisation of industry, transport services and 
finance and credit establishments had been carried out in response 
to pressure from the labour and democratic movements, the first of 
the above trends developed on a considerable scale. State property 
in these countries became one of the main factors making possible 
the state-monopolistic control of economic and social processes. In 
these countries, state enterprises account for 20-25 per cent of in¬ 
dustrial production, a great part of banking assets and between 
11-12 per cent of the work force (in Austria as much as 30 per 
cent). 1 The main branches of the economy which to one degree or 
another are controlled by the state include coal-mining, electric pow¬ 
er, metallurgy, the railways, air transport, and in France, and to 
some extent in Britain, the automobile and aviation industries. The 
role of the state in branches producing industrial raw materials and 
power enabled it to exert its influence on the economic conditions 


1 The Political Economy of Modern Monopoly Capitalism, Vol. 1, pp. 353, 
374, 375. 







152 


CHAPTER 3 


of enterprises in all other branches and make sure the latter cor¬ 
respond to the interests of the monopolies. On the other hand, the 
state, in its capacity as powerful monopolist and owner of enormous 
enterprises, played a leading role in streamlining methods of ex¬ 
ploitation and ensuring “social peace”. 

In the United States, Japan, Canada and a number of small states 
in Western Europe state ownership of the means of production was 
not so widespread; in this respect West Germany occupied an inter¬ 
mediate position. 

The post-war situation in Western Europe and Japan can be summ¬ 
ed lip as follows: the need to restore and rebuild the economy, in¬ 
creasing competition in the capitalist world market, mounting pres¬ 
sure from the labour movement. All these factors served to promote 
in many of these countries such forms of state-monopolistic control 
as programming of the economy. It was in France that SMC devel¬ 
oped furthest along such lines. In the United States, this particu¬ 
lar form of state-monopolistic control did not take root. It was no 
coincidence, of course, that it was precisely the monopolistic bour¬ 
geoisie in the countries where its position had been particularly un¬ 
dermined as a result of the war, which was compelled earlier to ac¬ 
cept the need for a certain restriction of the market anarchy in order 
to restore and consolidate its own position. The advance of state- 
monopolistic programming provided an answer to the imperative 
demands of the new productive forces which were to be seen more 
and more obviously to be tearing down the framework of private- 
capitalist relations. At the same time this advance was dictated by 
the increasingly tense competition with socialism and was presented 
by the strategists of capitalism as a kind of alternative to socialist 
planning. 

Despite all the national differences in the forms and techniques 
of state-monopolistic control, in the course of its development it 
would reveal a number of common features which determine first 
and foremost the nature of its impact on the economy and social 
relations of the capitalist system. 

The most important of these features was the ubiquitously grow¬ 
ing role of the state budgeting and taxation policy in the economy. 
The share of the state budget in the national income increased from 
1/5-1/4 in the pre-war period to 1/3-2/5 in the 70s. This meant that 
the state now played a considerably more important role in the re¬ 
distribution of the national income and provided wider opportunities 
for it to influence various aspects of the nation’s economic and so¬ 
cial life. This influence was effected through the whole range of 
tax and financial levers of state policy: grants, privileges, loans, etc.. 
The state financed the reconstruction of a number of the old 
branches of production, created and developed new ones, brought into 











































international and home fronts of struggle 


153 * 


existence by the scientific and technological revolution, such as 
tj ie atomic and space industries. Using these levers, the state is 
a ble to influence the size and structure of investment by privately 
owned capitalist companies, the concentration of production and 
its technical modernisation. 

Particularly great is the role of state policy in stimulating scien¬ 
tific and technological progress. In the main capitalist countries the 
state takes upon itself the financing of half or more of the expen¬ 
diture on scientific research and development. 1 

One of the major trends to be observed in state-monopolistic con¬ 
trol directly affecting the position of the working class is the range 
of measures to meet the changed conditions of the reproduction of 
the work force and to develop a number of branches of the social 
infrastructure: social security, health care, education, housing, pro¬ 
tection of the environment. The ruling circles were impelled to- 
implement such measures both by the objective needs of production* 
and by the pressure exerted by the class struggle of the working, 
people, inspired by the social achievements of socialism. Despite the- 
limited and incomplete nature of these measures embarked upon by 
SMC and the fact that they only went a small way towards satis¬ 
fying the needs of society, they nevertheless represent one of the- 
important manifestations of the turning-point in the correlation of 
class forces ushered in by the further worsening of the general 
crisis of capitalism. 

SMC did not, of course, change the actual nature of the capitalist 
social order, nor did it lead to the fading away of its basic principles- 
and underlying laws of development. The aims of production re¬ 
mained unchanged: increased monopolistic profit and greater eco¬ 
nomic power for monopoly capital. Nor were there any fundamental 
changes in such essential features of capitalism as competition and 
the anarchic, uncontrolled nature of economic development. SMC 
could not hold back catastrophic recessions in production, including 
one of the most far-reaching in modern times—that of the mid-70s. 
State control and the “regulation” of economic life effected by SMC 
can only be of limited use because of the narrow framework of 
market, private capitalist relations. Nevertheless, working within this 
framework state control brought about a number of substantial changes*, 
in the pace and working of the capitalist economy. Hates of eco¬ 
nomic growth rose considerably and right up until the crisis of the 
70s they remained at a relatively high level. The average annual, 
growth rate for industrial output in the capitalist world as a whole 
Was 5.8 per cent in the period 1949-1973 as opposed to 3.9 per cent 


1 Mirovaya Ekonomika i Mezhdunarodniye Otnosheniya, No. 6, 1979,, 
p. 32. 






154 


CHAPTER 3 


over the period 1920-1937 and in some countries it reached an even 
higher level (Japan—15.2 per cent, West Germany—9.1 per cent 
and Italy—7.8 per cent). 1 The equipment and methods constituting 
the technical and technological basis for production were modern¬ 
ised on a large scale and there was a rise in productivity as well. The 
development of the capitalist economy in the 50s and 60s served to 
soften the impact of the socio-economic consequences of recessions 
in industry, and to reduce the scale of such phenomena as unem¬ 
ployment and the poverty of the working people. There was a marked 
increase in the size of personal consumption, and also in the real 
wages of a number of categories of employees. 

Equally significant changes have taken place in the socio-political 
sphere and in the methods used for securing class domination. A typ¬ 
ical feature of the development of society’s political superstructure 
in conditions of SMC is the existence of closer ties between the 
monopolies and the bourgeois state and the party-political apparatus 
and their growing influence on all spheres of social and political 
life. These ties and this influence also existed at earlier stages of 
the development of monopoly capitalism, but now they are far more 
^common and organised and possess far more ramifications: they 
permeate the whole system of administration of capitalist society. 
On the other hand, there has been enormous growth in the state 
bureaucratic apparatus and its functions have been significantly ex¬ 
pended. Although the class essence of the bourgeois state has not 
changed, its relative independence has grown. The combination of 
these two tendencies makes it possible for the ruling class to 
elaborate and implement a single, co-ordinated social policy 
that satisfies the strategic and long-term interests of monopoly 
capital. 

It goes without saying that under SMC the contradictions between 
various groups and factions of the monopolistic bourgeoisie, or be¬ 
tween any of these factions and the state still exist and are at times 
seriously exacerbated. Yet the state-monopolistic power structure 
makes it in general far easier than before to “regulate” such con¬ 
tradictions and overcome differences that may arise. The implemen¬ 
tation of state-monopolistic policy in practice is facilitated by the 
coalescence of the top managers of the monopolies with the upper 
section of the state apparatus. The power of this ruling elite in 
bourgeois society rapidly grows as a result of the emasculation of 
bourgeois democracy intrinsic to SMC: the unprecedented strengthen¬ 
ing of the executive power, the expansion of state bodies and 
centres for political decision-making, which are not subject to con¬ 
trol by parliament or other elected institutions. 


1 The Political Economy of Modern Monopoly Capitalism, Vol. 2, p. 406. 

























INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


155 


The main orientation of SMC’s social policy between the 50s and 
,80s was the endeavour to undermine the class struggle as much as 
possible, to secure social conditions optimal for capitalist exploita¬ 
tion, increasing profit for the monopolies and consolidating their pow- 
,er at the price of certain economic and social concessions to the 
working people. As was pointed out in the Central Committee Report 
to the 24th Congress of the CPSU: “The features of contemporary 
capitalism largely spring from the fact that it is trying to adapt 
itself to the new situation in the world. In the conditions of the con¬ 
frontation with socialism, the ruling circles of the capitalist countries 
are afraid more than they have ever been of the class struggle de¬ 
veloping into a massive revolutionary movement. Hence, the bour¬ 
geoisie’s striving to use more camouflaged forms of exploitation and 
oppression of the working people, and its readiness now and 
again to agree to partial reforms in order to keep the masses under 
its ideological and political control as far as possible.” 1 

Typical of capitalist social policy for this period is the combination 
of the suppression of the working-class struggle with the bourgeois 
endeavour to achieve total ideological and psychological “integra¬ 
tion” of working people into the state-monopolistic system. Increased 
centralisation and control in the administration of capitalist society 
made itself felt in all aspects of social life. The living conditions 
of working people, their material and non-material consumption, 
the social behaviour and activity of their organisations are being 
subjected to ever increasing regulation. Economic control is being 
supplemented more and more often by social control. The state in¬ 
tervenes in labour relations, in the mechanism used for distributing 
income, and in the fluctuations of the working people’s living stan¬ 
dards on an ever wider scale. Aims of this kind cannot be achieved 
by bans and repression alone: SMC attempts not only to stem social 
protest and the organised activity of the working class and other 
strata of society, but also to create firm guarantees for “social 
peace”. Hence the social demagogy inherent in SMC, the wide use 
■of various pseudo-democratic forms and procedures for “accommodat¬ 
ing" opposed class interests and methods for providing the illusion 
that the working-class organisations take part in political decisions. 
The relative flexibility and manoeuvrability in the social sphere 
inextricably bound up with the preservation of the democratic facade 
for the political edifice were the distinctive features of SMC be¬ 
tween the 50s and the 80s that set it apart from those forms of 
capitalism that were born of fascism earlier. 

The emergence of SMC had a profound and at the same time con¬ 
tradictory influence on the conditions in which the labour movement 
had to continue its struggle. 

1 24th Congress of the CPSU. Documents, p. 20. 





156 


CHAPTER 3 


Bourgeois and reformist advocates of SMC seek to represent the 
socio-economic function of state power as being something above 
class, providing for the interests of the whole of society, including 
the working class. It was precisely on the basis of these ideas that 
there arose the bourgeois-reformist conception of the “welfare state”, 
according to which the legislative and executive power through spec¬ 
ially designed measures tone down the vices of private enterprise, 
modifying the social defects of the market economy, “optimising” 
the processes of the distribution and redistribution of the national 
income and holding in check problems of unemployment. 

The actual development of capitalism in the second half of the 
20th century has revealed for all to see the bankruptcy of such state¬ 
ments. Intervention by the state in relations between labour and 
capital not only does not change the nature of class domination and 
relations based on exploitation but renders such relations more com¬ 
plex. In all spheres of social relations between labour and capital the 
private-enterprise policy of exploitation is supplemented by and dove¬ 
tailed with the policy of class oppression implemented by the 
whole state-monopolist complex. The working class is confronted 
by pressure directed against its interests by the long-term, co-ordi¬ 
nated social tactics and strategy of the state and the monopolies. 
Exploitation in production is thus supplemented more and more by 
exploitation from outside the sphere of production, by deliberate 
manipulation of the working people’s consumer demands and the 
whole complex of their needs, by manipulation of ideas and attitudes 
on all fronts. 

The complexity of interpreting the class essence of these phenom¬ 
ena by the working masses is bound up with the fact that the 
bourgeois state takes great pains in masking the true aims of its 
policies, trying to present its socio-economic activity as one which 
upholds the interests of the nation as a whole, on the one hand, 
and the struggle of the working people and their organisations 
against the state-monopolistic economic and social policies, on the 
other, as the selfish defence of group interests against the “national” 
interests. The true nature of relations based on exploitation is also 
concealed by the increasingly “faceless” nature of class domination: 
the working class is confronted not so much by individual capital¬ 
ists, as by an anonymous system of state-monopolistic power and 
its intricately ramified administrative apparatus. 

The development of state-monopoly capitalism has thus changed 
in many respects the conditions and tasks of the labour movement, 
creating for it new difficulties and problems. The closer links be¬ 
tween state policy and concrete issues regarding the material and 
social position of the working people places more and more insistent 
demands on the labour movement that it should be engaged in ac- 























































INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


157 


tive struggle in the political arena against the whole course pursued 
bv SMC and that it should put in opposition to that course a de¬ 
tailed programme for economic and social policy. Without such 
struggle it will become less and less possible to defend even the 
immediate, short-term interests of the working people bound up 
with their standard of living, the right to work and to have proper 
working conditions and channels for collective bargaining in the 
sphere of labour relations. This struggle is becoming an issue of 
■crucial importance, since without it the labour movement will not 
be in a position to thwart the attempts of ruling circles to deprive 
it of all independence and to turn the working class via “social in¬ 
tegration” into a kind of driving belt for the power machine of the 
monopolies. 

The changed situation has created not only difficulties but also 
new preconditions for a higher level of proletarian class struggle 
and it altered to a considerable extent the link between its short¬ 
term and long-term goals, between the defence of the working peo¬ 
ple’s immediate interests, on the one hand, and the implementation 
of fundamental social change and the fight for socialism, on the 
other. These preconditions took shape as a result of the political 
struggle of the working class, inevitable under SMC. The exacerba¬ 
tion of contradictions of capitalism stemming from SMC served in 
enormous measure to extend that struggle. 

When state-monopolistic trends started to develop, Lenin pointed 
out with astuteness kin to genius that “state-monopoly capitalism is 
a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of so¬ 
cialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the 
rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs". 1 

In conditions of well-established SMC in the second half of the 
20th century the material preparation for socialism is of a still 
more advanced and complete nature. In its main features the mech¬ 
anism for the social management of the economy has already been 
forged and the need for this has been duly appreciated by broad 
sectors of the working people. However, the social character of this 
mechanism created by SMC is in blatant contradiction with the goals 
and results of its activity. On the one hand, despite increased flexi¬ 
bility and manoeuvrability of the social tactics employed by the 
capitalists, we find exploitation of the working people, social inequal¬ 
ity and unemployment and the failure to satisfy the most urgent 
needs of the popular masses to be the constant features of the capi¬ 
talist society. On the other hand, despite the increasingly powerful 
regulation of socio-economic development SMC has not yet succeed¬ 
ed in developing it as a well-ordered, consistently planned system, 


1 V. I. Lenin. Collected Works, Vo). 25, 1980, p. 363. 










158 


CHAPTER 3 


or in overcoming the disrupting effect of the anarchic forces of the 
capitalist market. This development has retained its cyclical charact¬ 
er and still goes hand in hand with inflation and unemployment 
and tensions stemming from problems connected with the energy, 
raw materials and currency crisis, the disruption of the mechanism 
of state-monopolist control, and in the mid-70s this development 
saw one of the most serious economic crises in the whole post-war 
period. Phenomena of this kind serve to spotlight the degree to 
which state-monopolistic socialisation is subordinated to the anti¬ 
social, selfish interests and goals of private-monopoly capital and: 
to the laws of capitalism. 

The anti-social, inhumane nature of the state-monopoly system 
came particularly clearly to the fore in the militarisation of the 
economy in a number of the main capitalist countries, in the role 
that has come to be assumed in their economic and social life by 
the activity of the military-industrial complex. In 1978, the annual 
level of military expenditure by the states, members of NATO, had 
reached a level that was more than ten times higher than the equiv¬ 
alent figure for 1949; in these countries half if not more of the 
total expenditure on research is geared to military requirements. 1 
All this at a time when there is a growing need for funds essential 
to resolve urgent social problems ! The monopolies of the military- 
industrial complex and their agents in the bourgeois parties and 
the state apparatus obstruct in every way possible the development 
of realistic trends in the foreign policy of the capitalist states, trying 
to create a situation fraught with the threat of thermonuclear war. 

The striking disparity between the social character of the power 
mechanism created by SMC and its actual utilisation in the inter¬ 
ests of the top monopolies, that directly oppose society, repre¬ 
sents a new form of the contradiction between the productive forces 
and the production relations of capitalism. As a result of this the 
class contradictions also acquire new features. The main antagonism 
between labour and capital stands out more and more in relief in the 
sphere of state policy and state power, state goals and priorities 
which shape the system for the management of society and the 
economy. The contradiction between the working class and the bour¬ 
geoisie is becoming more and more closely linked with the growing 
contradiction between the monopolies and the overwhelming major¬ 
ity of society. There is growing dissatisfaction among the broad 
popular masses with the gulf, of which they are constantly aware, 
between the new opportunities now available for improving their 
material and cultural life, stemming from the social regulation of 


1 The Political Economy of Modern Monopoly Capitalism, Vol. 2, p. 22; 
Mirovaya Ekonomika i Mezhdunarodniye Otnosheniya, No. 5, 1979, p. 59. 
































INTERNATIONAL AND HOME FRONTS OF STRUGGLE 


159 » 


economic and social processes, and the way in which that regulation 
is in fact subordinated to the interests of the monopolistic oligarchy. 

Yet these new opportunities do not mean that the fight of the 
working class has become simpler or easier: if these opportunities 
are to be properly used, new decisions and a new level of organisa¬ 
tion, political awareness, and militant activity are necessary on? 
the part of the working class in the changed conditions. 







Chapter 4 

THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


THE WORKING CLASS AND ITS ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT 

OF PRODUCTIVE FORCES 

The important consequences of the scientific and technological rev¬ 
olution and the whole process of the capitalist economy’s develop¬ 
ment under SMC were the involvement of ever more working peo¬ 
ple in the sphere of large-scale capitalist production and the major 
changes that took place in the social division of labour and the 
.composition of the labour force. The impact of these changes on the 
working class cannot be understood without reference to production 
relations and the main economic laws of that society in which the 
scientific and technological revolution is unfolding and to the class 
structure that is intrinsic to it. 

Yet no reference is made to these factors by bourgeois econom¬ 
ists and sociologists when they study the socio-economic effects 
of the scientific and technological revolution. In their writings they 
discuss the concept of the working class in isolation from the pro¬ 
duction relations of capitalism and apply to it not social or class- 
based criteria but criteria relating exclusively to the vocations and 
trades exercised: the composition of the working class is limited 
to the traditional categories of physical labour. 

In terms of the scientific, Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the 
.class structure of society, the differences between classes should not 
be determined by the professions or trades to which men belong. 
Lenin wrote on this subject: “Classes are large groups of people 
differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically 
determined system of social production, by their relation (in most 
cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by 
their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by 
the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose 
and the modes of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one 
of which can appropriate the labour of another owing to the differ¬ 
ent places they occupy in a definite system of social economy.” 1 


1 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 29, 1977, p. 421. 























SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 161 


The working class under capitalism is a class of hired workers 
deprived of means of production, occupying a dependent, subordi¬ 
nate position in the social organisation of labour and exploited by 
capitalists who appropriate the surplus-value produced. The effect 
of changes in the structure of the work force and in the social di¬ 
vision of labour on the working class should, therefore, be viewed in 
conjunction with the development of economic relations underlying 
the class structure of capitalism, the relations of capitalist exploi¬ 
tation. 

k The relations of hired labour constitute the essential precondi¬ 
tion of capitalist exploitation. Under the impact of the scientific and 
technological revolution the number and proportion of small-scale 
property owners in the economy declines and there is an absolute 
and also relative increase in the numbers of hired workers (see Ta¬ 
ble 1). 

Table 1 

Hired Workers*: Their Numbers and Share 
in the Economically Active Population** 



USA 

Britain 

France 

frg 

Italy 

Japan 


min 

% 

min 

% 

min 

% 

min 

% 

min 

% 

min 

i 

% 

1950 

48.4 

81.9 

21.1 

92.2 

12.5*** 

65.4*** 

15.6 

70.8 

12.7**** 

61.3**** 

14.6 

40.3 

1960 

59.6 

87.4 

22.7 

92.7 

13 8***** 

72 0***** 

19.8 

77.4 

13.6 

63.6 

23.8 

54-1 

1970 

74.6 

90.2 

23.4 

92.8 

16.5 

78.5 

22.4 

82.9 

13.6 

69.5 

34.3 

64.9 

1980 

93.9 

91.3 

24.2 

92.8 

19.2 

84.1 

22.9 

86.5 

16.5 

74.2 

39.9 

71.4 


* Including the unemployed. 

** Excluding military personnel. 

*** 1954. 

**** 1951. 

***** 1962. 

Sources: Year Book of Labour Statistics, 1951-52, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1971, 1980; 

Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1960, 1962, 1971, 1981. 

As can be seen from the table, in the developed capitalist coun¬ 
tries in which the process of industrialisation was for all intents 
and purposes complete by the beginning of the 50s, the share of 
hired workers constituted 85 per cent or more of the total numbers 
of the population actively employed in the economy by the end of 
the 70s. In countries like Japan and Italy, where there still existed 
a considerable sector of small-scale production at the beginning of 
the 50s (mainly in agriculture), the process of industrialisation was 
developing hand in hand with the processes of the scientific and 
technological revolution and with the particularly rapid rate of pro- 


11-0515 











162 


CHAPTER 4 


letarianisation. As a result the proportion of hired labour in Japan 
and Italy began quickly to catch up with that found in Britain, the 
United States, France and the Federal Republic of Germany. 

Once the scientific and technological revolution had started, the 
growth in the share of the population engaged in hired labour pro¬ 
ceeded far more quickly than before on account of the increase in 
the number and proportion of workers, in whose functions brain- 
work or non-physical labour predominated. Among the correspond¬ 
ing vocational categories of hired workers a process of social or 
class-based stratification takes place, and the majority of these be¬ 
come proletarianised to one degree or another, swelling the ranks of 
the working people exploited by the capitalists. This exploitation 
in its turn acquires certain new features that have also been shaped 
by the scientific and technological revolution. 

On the basis of the scientific and technological revolution in the 
50s and 60s there was a marked acceleration in the advance of the 
economy of the majority of the capitalist countries and the scale 
and rate of accumulation increased. The correlation of the various 
sources and methods of accumulation began to change during the 
period in question and was soon different from that found during 
the earlier stages of the development of capitalism. There was a 
decline in the relative importance of extensive methods based on 
the involvement of the growing number of workers in the sphere 
of capitalist exploitation (i.e. of the cheapest home labour for the 
capitalists) and also on the plundering of the peoples in the colo¬ 
nies and dependent countries. Accumulation in the industrially de¬ 
veloped capitalist countries was effected primarily at the expense 
of domestic sources and the main factor facilitating the increase 
in its scale was scientific and technological progress and the con¬ 
sequent rise in the productivity and intensity of social labour. 1 
One of the most important conditions for the advance of scientific 
and technological progress, therefore, became the improvement in 
the qualitative characteristics of the work force in connection with 
the profound changes, and sometimes virtually revolutionary ones, 

1 A. B. Veber, “The International Proletariat in the Imperialist System”. 
In: The Class Struggle and the Modern World, Moscow, 1971, pp. 18-21. The 
author points out, among other things, that the absolute growth in the 
“tribute" levied by the imperialists from the economically dependent coun¬ 
tries goes hand in hand with a relative decrease in the importance of revenue 
from external- sources. In 1965, for example, the direct profits gleaned by the 
British monopolies from foreign investments came to 3.5 per cent of the 
national income as against 10 per cent in 1929, and in the United States the 
figures for the same years were 1 and 1.4 per cent respectively. 

In the 70s, particularly in connection with the economic crisis and after 
that crisis, there was a marked increase in the trend to export capital so as 
to glean more profit rather than to invest within the home country. This led 
to a relative growth in the “tribute" for Britain. 











SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


163 


in the content and functions of labour. The large degree of un¬ 
evenness in the application of new technology in capitalist enter¬ 
prises naturally creates a varied picture: in one and the same factory 
and sometimes in one and the same workshop, side by side with 
automated assembly lines and various types of the latest equipment 
there can be found other sections in which simple and heavy man¬ 
ual labour is used by demanding large outlays of physical 
strength. The main trend, however, is towards a rise in the com¬ 
plexity of labour and in the qualifications demanded of the work force. 

In the 19th century the working class was engaged virtually ex¬ 
clusively in simple physical labour, and the vast mass of workers 
in that period only had a minimal, very short training that often 
did not require them to be literate. In the 19th and even in the first 
half of the 20th century, labour changed, broadly speaking, only in 
a one-sided way: technological innovations chiefly affected means 
of labour, while the actual process of labour was fragmented, being 
divided into simple, elementary operations, and this development 
culminated in the introduction of conveyor-belts in the 20s, which 
robbed the individual worker’s activity of any creative elements it 
might have had. The majority of the work force in the inter-war 
years were semi-skilled. In the 60s, semi-skilled labour required 
for conveyor-belt production lines was still the lot of a consider¬ 
able part of the working class, yet by this time the execution of 
many operations (including those for which semi-skilled workers 
were taken on) began to require a certain amount of knowledge 
and a certain degree of general education. For the time being, in 
the overwhelming majority of enterprises, unskilled and semi-skilled 
workers were relied upon to satisfy requirements and any links 
between the educational system and material production were ex¬ 
tremely tenuous. There was a radical change in the situation, how¬ 
ever, when further development in production proved impossible 
without the mass-scale utilisation of a highly qualified work force. 
The essential prerequisite for this new work force would, of course, 
be a significant extension of the provision for education. 

Conveyor-belt labour did not correspond to the conditions obtain¬ 
ing in a number of the latest branches of production, occupying a 
dominant position in scientific and technological progress, such as 
the chemical and oil-processing industries. Yet there was a contra¬ 
diction to be observed between conveyor-belt labour and the level 
of general education provided, or even the vocational training of 
the majority of young workers. Their training was, on the one hand, 
inadequate for many new jobs, but at the same time it was “redun¬ 
dant” for the majority of operations in conveyor-belt production. 
Although semi-skilled labour continued to be widely used in a num¬ 
ber of branches of mass-scale assembly-line production, the intro- 


ii* 








164 


CHAPTER 4 


duction of new technological processes in all branches of the econ, 
omy held back the rates of growth in the number of semi-skilled 
workers employed. 

In the industrially developed capitalist countries, a shortage of 
workers and administrative personnel with the high qualifications 
required in modern industry made itself felt, and indeed, this short¬ 
age still applies. Qualifications of this type are rooted in a reliable 
training in general subjects and in a number of instances pre¬ 
suppose a combination of physical labour and brain-work, while for 
workers in certain categories (for example, technicians, control-pan¬ 
el operators, computer operators, programmers and laboratory as¬ 
sistants, etc.) brain-work has come to predominate. 

In some sections of production, particularly in the technically 
advanced branches, of growing importance is the labour of specific 
groups of the scientific and technical intelligentsia—engineers and 
scientific personnel carrying out routine work in design offices and 
laboratories or servicing technical complexes. Meanwhile categories 
of employees who are not engaged in management or administrative 
functions, as regards their place in the system of the social organ¬ 
isation of labour, are little more than ordinary workers. 

This, of course, does not mean that all hired personnel engaged 
in brain-work are becoming part of the working class in the condi¬ 
tions of present-day capitalism. The trend towards the proletarian¬ 
isation of the intelligentsia and white-collar workers does not tally 
with the trend towards the retention and continuation of social priv¬ 
ileges for a considerable part of those groups: the position of ma¬ 
ny of them is determined by the objective functions of those organ¬ 
ising capitalist exploitation or by the political and ideological ser¬ 
vicing of existing social relations. Many strata of hired workers, 
while they carry out such functions, are at the same time subjected 
to capitalist exploitation and social oppression. All this points to 
the incomplete and uneven nature of the proletarianisation of a 
number of groups of brain-workers but it does not in any way re¬ 
fute the actual fact of the development of this process. While some 
groups of this type have virtually merged with the working 
class, others, more numerous ones, have grown closer to the work¬ 
ing class as regards the essential features of their economic and 
social position. 

The growth of the services sector’s share in the national econo¬ 
my has also had a major impact on the increase in the workers’ 
numbers. As a result of the development of capitalist relations and 
the concentration of capital in this sphere, hired workers have as¬ 
sumed leading importance in the provision of services. By the end 
of the 70s they accounted for over four-fifths of the employees in 
this sphere in the majority of the capitalist countries. 









































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


165 


In this way the growth of the working class during the scien¬ 
tific and technological revolution goes hand in hand with increasing¬ 
ly heterogeneous labour functions and types of qualifications of the 
aggregate worker, and with the increasing complexity of the voca¬ 
tional and skills patterns to be observed within the proletariat. 

Questions regarding the working class are of great importance in 
the ideological struggle between the adherents of Marxism-Leninism 
and their opponents. 1 Anti-communist ideologues, representatives 
of pro-bourgeois, reformist and revisionist trends, anxious to refute 
the Marxist-Leninist tenet on the world-historic role of the proleta¬ 
riat, maintain that the proletariat is allegedly drawing near to its 
inexorable demise under the impact of the scientific and technolog¬ 
ical revolution. On the other hand, revisionists of the Garaudy type 
have attempted to falsify the Marxist interpretation of the work¬ 
ing class, maintaining that in present-day conditions any substan¬ 
tial differences between the proletariat and the whole mass of those 
engaged in brain-work are allegedly being erased. This thesis is 
being used to illustrate the anti-Marxist conception of the transi¬ 
tion of the leading role in social development from the working 
class to the intelligentsia. The point of departure for all these theo¬ 
ries is an over-simplified and distorted interpretation of the class— 
an historical, complex socio-economic category characterised by a 
whole range of criteria. 

In accordance with the Marxist-Leninist conception of classes the 
composition and extent of the working class in capitalist society are 
determined by a whole group of characteristics which serve to de¬ 
fine its place in capitalist relations of production. The majority of 
office workers, those employed in the retail trade and other low-lev¬ 
el, sometimes medium-level, white-collar workers possess these 
characteristics, as well as industrial and agricultural proletarians, 
transport and building workers, and those employed in the ser¬ 
vices sector in modern conditions. According to the estimates of So¬ 
viet researchers, the share of the working class in the working pop¬ 
ulation in the advanced capitalist countries fluctuated in the mid 
70s between 61-68 per cent (Japan, Italy) and 77-80 per cent (USA, 
Britain). 2 

As Leonid Brezhnev pointed out in his speech to the 15th Trade 
Union Congress: “The ranks of the international working class, 
the most advanced revolutionary class of modern times, and its role 
as the main productive and socio-political force in the world, will 
continue to grow. Despite the fashionable anti-Marxist theories 

1 Modern Capitalism and the Working Class: A Critique of Anti-Marxist 
Conceptions, Moscow, 1976 (in Russian). 

2 The Working Class in the Social Structure of the Industrially Devel¬ 
oped Capitalist Countries, Moscow, 1977, p. 311 (in Russian). 








166 


CHAPTER 4 


which allege that the scientific and technological revolution is nar¬ 
rowing the scope of the working class and even eliminating it alto¬ 
gether, the facts testify to the contrary: scientific and technological 
progress everywhere leads to the growth of the working class, due, 
among other things, to the new occupations introduced by the mod¬ 
ern methods of production.” 1 

The working class of today consists of three detachments from 
different fields of production: the industrial proletariat, the agricul¬ 
tural proletariat and the proletariat in the services sector. The num¬ 
bers of the agrarian proletariat have dropped several times over in 
the post-war period. In the working class of the main capitalist 
countries it only occupied a small place by the end of the 70s: be¬ 
tween 1 and 2 per cent of the total working class in Japan, Britain, 
West Germany, the United States, and only in Italy did it account 
for 10 per cent. The main mass of the proletariat is divided more 
or less equally between the industrial branches of the economy and 
the services sector. 

The industrial working class and the proletariat in the services 
sector are very different in their composition. Typical of the former 
are first and foremost those workers who make up approximately 
three-quarters of the total: a considerable section of the industrial 
working class is highly skilled and a large proportion of it is con¬ 
centrated in large-scale enterprises. Among white-collar workers be¬ 
longing to the industrial proletariat, a prominent place is that occu¬ 
pied by technical personnel. 

Typical of the working class in the services sector are ordinary 
white-collar workers who constitute nearly two-thirds of its ranks. 
These are office workers employed in central and local establish¬ 
ments of the state apparatus, banking and insurance clerks, ca¬ 
shiers, clerks, nurses, laboratory assistants and other auxiliary per¬ 
sonnel in the health service, and also teachers who have not had 
a university education, or who are employed in primary schools and 
pre-school establishments. Those employed in the various branches 
of the services sector—warehouse personnel, and various kinds of 
auxiliary staff in shops and catering establishments—are in general 
less qualified than those employed in industry (although in certain 
branches groups of highly skilled workers and technicians are em¬ 
ployed). In the services sector the working class is less concentrat¬ 
ed than in industry and it is more closely linked to the petty bour¬ 
geoisie and the new middle strata. There are considerably more wom¬ 
en employed in the lower echelons of white-collar staff and work¬ 
ers in the services sector than in industry. 


1 L. I. Brezhnev, Following Lenin’s Course. Speeches and Articles (1972- 
1975). Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, p. 22. 



























SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


167 


As various groups of the population become proletarianised—a 
process that is taking place in all capitalist countries—and modern 
technology and industrial labour are being introduced, this en¬ 
hances the importance of the working class as society’s main produc¬ 
tive force. Rising productivity and economic growth in the post-war 
period in the developed capitalist countries cannot possibly be re¬ 
garded purely as a result of progress in science, technology and the 
organisation of management. One of the crucial conditions for tech¬ 
nical and economic achievements was the high level of production 
skills possessed by the working class in those countries, their knowl¬ 
edge, their capacity for smoothly running, highly organised team 
work demanded by the increasingly complex technology of modern 
mechanised and automated production. 

Increasing use of not merely the physical but also the intellec¬ 
tual and nervous energies of the worker in the labour process and 
the steadily rising intensity, essential for participation in modern 
technologically advanced production, constitute the essential ele¬ 
ments of the contribution which the working class makes to tech¬ 
nical and economic development. 

Among the factors which make possible technological progress and 
economic development has been the growing importance not only 
of the labour activity of the working class hut also of its struggle 
to uphold its interests. The intensification of the proletariat’s class 
struggle drastically curtailed the opportunities for the monopolistic 
bourgeoisie to obtain larger profits at the expense of greater abso¬ 
lute surplus-value, in particular by retaining longer working hours 
and stepping up the pace for simple, unskilled labour and also by 
keeping wages at a low level. Growing opposition from the work¬ 
ing class to such methods of capitalist accumulation obliged the 
bourgeoisie to stake everything on increasing relative surplus-value, 
raising social productivity, as demanded by accelerated technologic¬ 
al progress, and also on introducing the latest scientific advances 
into production. 

Changes in the balance of class forces throughout the world and 
within the capitalist countries obliged the monopolistic bourgeoisie 
and the bourgeois state to embark upon wide-scale social manoeuvr¬ 
ing in addition to repression: to make certain economic concessions, 
particularly with regard to wages and welfare benefits, etc. This 
meant that the struggle of the working class contributed to the ex¬ 
tension of the domestic market and, therefore, affected the rate and 
character of economic development. 

The rise in the militancy of the mass labour movement, in the 
level of its awareness and organisation enabled the proletariat not 
only to affect the economy in indirect and spontaneous ways, chang¬ 
ing through its struggle the conditions of capitalist reproduction, 






168 


CHAPTER 4 


but also directly and deliberately to influence the direction of eco¬ 
nomic development. This came to the foremost graphically in the 
struggle of the workers’ organisations to implement economic goals 
and programmes which correspond to the interests of the working 
people as they should lead to some degree of improvement in their 
conditions. An example of this is the struggle of the Communist 
parties and trade unions in a number of capitalist countries to raise 
productive capital investments, to secure full employment, to devel¬ 
op economically backward regions, to increase consumer demand 
and to extend social services. Many of the progressive detachments 
of the present-day working class in the capitalist countries combine 
a high degree of militancy in the struggle to support their class 
interests with a growing awareness of their responsibility for eco¬ 
nomic development, with a constructive approach to this develop¬ 
ment. 

New features of the activity and skills of the working class and 
its role in social production have turned out to be in sharp contra¬ 
diction with its position in the system of social relations in cap¬ 
italist enterprises. After considerably raising its intellectual poten¬ 
tial, its levels of general and technical education, introducing a 
higher degree of organisation into its work, mastering the latest 
achievements of scientific research in its direct labour experience, 
the working class has still remained an exploited class, totally ex¬ 
cluded from the management of production and obliged to subordi¬ 
nate its activity to interests and objectives that are opposed to its 
own. This contradiction which characterises the evolution of the 
social position of the working class, inevitably strengthens its de¬ 
termination to achieve a definite position in the system of the man¬ 
agement of productive forces and to restrict the monopoly power 
of the bourgeoisie in the economy and society. 

The enhancement of the working class’ leading role in economic 
and social progress is the main trend of its development in the 
conditions of the modern era. 

THE INDUSTRIAL PROLETARIAT 

The general trends of development to be observed in the working 
class had a direct influence on the workers engaged in industry, in 
building trades, in the transport network and in communications. 
Industrial workers form the nucleus of the working class and are 
the main buttress of the labour movement. 

The industrial proletariat of today differs from the previous gen¬ 
erations by a high level of concentration in large-scale enterprises. 
In the US manufacturing industry for example, in 1972 28.7 per 
cent of all workers and white-collar personnel were concentrated 
in enterprises employing more than 1,000 people (which constitut- 






































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


169 


ed only 0.6 per cent of the total number of factories in the coun- 
(ry). 1 In Japan 31.7 per cent (1977) 2 of the workers and white- 
collar personnel were employed in such factories, in West Germany 
37.6 (1977), 3 in Britain 29.0 per cent (1976), 4 and in Italy 24.3 
per cent (1971). 5 In France 24.7 per cent of the total number of 
industrial workers and white-collar personnel employed in factories 
with more than nine workers were concentrated in factories employ¬ 
ing over 1,000 people in 1972. 6 

Lenin in his day pointed out the particularly important role of 
large-scale enterprises, writing that “the large factories (and mills) 
contain not only the predominant part of the working class as re¬ 
gards numbers, but even more as regards influence, development, 
and fighting capacity.” 7 Conditions in the large-scale enterprise fos¬ 
ter the cohesion of workers from different backgrounds—those of 
peasant origin, those from impoverished families of the petty bour¬ 
geoisie, from the hereditary proletariat, workers of different ages, 
sex, and trades—in a single production team opposed to the capital¬ 
ists and the management. Their common destiny and subjugation to 
cruel production practices nurture feelings of proletarian solidarity 
and an awareness of the divergence of their interests and those of 
the capitalists. It is no coincidence that precisely in large-scale en¬ 
terprises there are the most powerful trade union organisations of 
working people, their class solidarity comes most powerfully to the 
fore, their ability to oppose the powers that be and to win for them¬ 
selves, and subsequently for all workers in the particular branch of 
industry, an advantageous position in the unremitting struggle for 
improved material prosperity and improved social status. 

Typical of the conditions in which the modern industrial proletar¬ 
iat is now working are the significantly more complex composition 
of the work force with all its different branches and trades and the 
appearance and rapid growth of new categories of jobs and branches 
of industry. 

Shifts in the branches in industry proceeded mainly along the 
following lines. In the first place, over a long period the number 
of men engaged in the mining industries and in the extraction of 
raw materials in general was decreasing, while the number of those 
working in the processing industries was increasing. Secondly, 
within the manufacturing industry there was a rise in the propor- 


! Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1980, p. 801. 

2 Nihon Tokai Nankan, 1979, p. 62. 

3 Statistisches Jahrbuch fur die BRD, 1979, p. 171. 

4 Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1980, p. 166. 

5 Annuario statistico italiano, 1979, p. 169. 

6 Les Collections de I’INSEE, serie “E”, No. 43, 1976, p. 70. 

7 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 6, 1976, p. 70. 






170 


CHAPTER 4 


tion of jobs going to those employed in quickly growing branches 
that were playing a pioneering role in scientific and technological 
progress, branches such as electronics, the chemical, instrument¬ 
making and aerospace industries. Thirdly, far-reaching, qualitative 
changes took place within the majority of branches of industry as 
a result of the appearance and development of new trades, with the 
change in the technical basis of production and with the output of 
new types of product. In all industrially developed capitalist coun¬ 
tries in the 50s and 60s there was a rapid rise in the number of 
workers employed in such new branches as radioelectronics, the 
production of computer equipment, the polymer chemistry, instru¬ 
ment-making, etc. 

In the 70s and particularly after 1973-1974, another trend was to 
be observed in the capitalist countries: a drop in the number of the 
employed workers in the manufacturing industry as a whole and 
in many other branches of industry which had seen growth previ¬ 
ously. In the United States for example, the number of workers en¬ 
gaged in the aviation industry increased in the period 1950-1970 from 
206,000 to 296,000 and by 1978 it had fallen to 275,000. 1 In the 
period 1970-1979, the number of those employed in the manufactur¬ 
ing industry dropped from 13,770,000 to 13,330,000, in the Federal 
Republic of Germany from 10,309,000 to 8,806,000, in Britain from 
8,465,000 to 7,276,000, in France from 5,677,000 to 5,496,000 and 
in Italy from 5,868,000 to 5,425,000 (in 1978). 2 

Scientific and technological progress brought about considerable 
change in the levels of qualifications and skills found in the work¬ 
ing class, and above all with regard to its industrial nucleus. The 
automation of production processes brought with it the transfer of 
a considerable number of production functions from men to machines. 
The main emphasis of work carried out by the working class 
now shifted from the direct execution of the production process to 
its technical maintenance and regulation: the elaboration of prog¬ 
rammes and the management of technological processes. Hence the 
rapid increase in the proportion of technicians and certain catego¬ 
ries of skilled workers in the work force. The increase in the vol¬ 
ume of research work carried out and the consequent rapid structur¬ 
al changes in production (the appearance of new types of product 
and the advance of new branches) led to an absolute and relative 
increase in the number of employees engaged in scientific research, 
and in the elaboration of new designs and experimental testing. The 


1 Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1958, pp. 210-211; 1976, pp. 369- 
370; 1980, p. 412. 

2 Yearbook of Labour Statistics, 1979, pp, 190, 192; 1980, pp. 177, 186, 
187, 193. 
































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


171 


trend towards the computerisation of production greatly increased 
the demand for staff engaged in the installation, repair and servic¬ 
ing of computing technology. 

The changes that have taken place can to some extent be traced 
in the change in skill patterns. Data relating to the United States 
(see Table 2) point to a considerable absolute and relative growth 
by the beginning of the 70s in the number of mechanics and re¬ 
pair workers and also in the number of team-leaders and foremen. 
Major changes have also taken place within individual trades. There 
were far more mechanics and repair workers in the new spheres 
of technology: aviation, radio and television, in the production and 

Table 2 


Changes in Number of US Skilled Workers Employed in Specific Trades 



1950 

1970 

1978 


min 

% 

min 

% 

min 

% 

1970 
% of 
1950 
figure 

1978 
% of 
1970 
figure 

All skilled workers 

7.70 

100 

10.16 

100 

12.39 

100 

132 

122 

Of these: 









Mechanics and repair 









workers 

1.69 

22.0 

2.82 

28.0 

3.24 

26.1 

167 

115 

employed in: 









the motor industry 

0.64 

8.4 

0.84 

8.3 

1.2 

9.7 

131 

143 

radio and TV repairs 

0.07 

1.0 

0.13 

1.3 



186 


aviation industry 

0.07 

0.9 

1.14 

1.4 

2.04 

16.5 

200 

141 

computer and office 









equipment repairs 

0.02 

0.2 

0.18 

1.8 



900 


Electricians 

0.30 

4.0 

0.44 

4.3 

0.5 

4.0 

147 

114 

Pipe-line installators 

0.27 

3.6 

0.35 

3.4 

0.4 

3.2 

130 

114 

Skilled machine ope- 









rators 

0.54 

7.0 

0.39 

3.8 

0.6 

4.8 

72 

154 

Machine and machine- 









tool adjustors 

0.15 

1.9 

0.30 

2.9 

0.5 

4.0 

200 

167 

Carpenters 

0.92 

11.7 

0.83 

8.2 

1.3 

10.5 

90 

157 

Masons 

0.16 

2.1 

0.20 

1.9 

0.2 

1.6 

125 

100 

Painters 

0.39 

5.1 

0.38 

3.7 

0.5 

4.0 

97 

132 

Team-leaders and fore- 









men 

0.34 

4.4 

1.50 

14.8 

1.67 

13.5 

441 

111 


Sources: Occupational Outlook, Washington, 1 957, p. 223; p. 1973, p. 367; 1980, p. 55 
Census of Population. Detailed Characteristics, Washington, 1973, p. 7 21; Sta 
tistical Abstract of the United States. 1980, pp. 417-418. 


















172 


CHAPTER 4 


maintenance of computers. The automation of production called 
for an increase in the number of electricians and mechanics qual¬ 
ified to repair equipment. 

Complex processes were at work within the group of skilled met¬ 
al workers which included machine operators, adjustors, locksmiths, 
pattern-makers, markers, etc. The automation of production pro¬ 
cesses and also some forms of mechanisation and the replacement of 
metal processing relying on physical strength hy punching and pre¬ 
cision casting led to the partial supplanting of machine operators 
and to a curtailment of their share in the skilled work force. Yet 
this process did not affect the position of adjustors or machine-tun¬ 
ers, whose role became more important and whose ranks swelled 
as the electronically programmed machine tools and other technol¬ 
ogy used in industry became more complex. 

In the building industry the number of painters and carpenters 
employed dropped as a result of mechanisation and the mass pro¬ 
duction of standardised parts. 

Table 2 does not include all the categories of skilled workers and 
it does not reflect the change in the nature of many trades. Yet the 
data provided make it possible to identify certain basic trends in 
these structural changes. There was rapid growth in the trades linked 
with new technology and new branches of industry. At the same 
time a number of mass-scale trades were becoming obsolete and 
their workers were being pushed out of production. 

The group “team-leaders and foremen” may at first glance ap¬ 
pear an exception, which, being one of the “oldest” categories, re¬ 
vealed exceptionally rapid growth. In the period 1950-1970, their 
total number rose by 340 per cent and their share in the total num¬ 
ber of skilled workers rose from 4 to 15 per cent. This can be ex¬ 
plained both by the general increase in the number of workers and 
also by the increasingly complex nature of the functions carried 
out by team-leaders and foremen. As the technological level of pro¬ 
duction became more advanced, the functions involved in the discip¬ 
linary control of workers were ousted by technical inspection and 
quality control of output. This naturally had a direct bearing on 
the changes wrought in the level of foremen’s skills. In many cases 
the lowest echelons of administrative personnel turned into tech¬ 
nical specialists. 

In the 70s, as can be seen from Table 2, the growth in numbers 
of this category of skilled workers started to slow down as a result 
of the overall reduction in rates of growth in the number of work¬ 
ers in the United States, and also of the widespread introduction 
of automated systems of quality control and changed methods for 
the organisation of labour. Changes in the numbers and represen¬ 
tation in the overall work force of those workers employed in tra- 

































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


173 


ditional trades being apart, scientific and technological progress also 
} e d to intensive development of new trades. 

As production became more complex and electronic equipment 
came to be used on a wider scale, many basic production functions 
(control of units, inspection, assembly, adjustment, repairs) began 
to require the skills of middle-ranking technical personnel, and 
sometimes even higher ones. New trades appeared, such as operator 
of an automated unit, maintenance worker for electronic apparatus, 
assembly technician, repair technician, etc. For the assembly of im¬ 
portant sections in automated systems wide use was being made not 
only of technicians’ labour but also of engineers’ labour, and in 
some types of production engineers have taken upon themselves 
such tasks as operating control-panels, repair-work and adjusting. 

It is thus clear that the scientific and technological revolution 
went hand in hand with the increased differentiation in the func¬ 
tions of engineers and technicians. Many engineers continued to 
carry out the functions of management and organisation, while 
others, constituting a minority, and the majority of technicians were 
drawn into the production process as run-of-the-mill participants. 

As a rule, the majority of the new trades are assigned by official 
statistics to the category of white-collar workers, or specialists as 
distinct from that of blue-collar workers to which belong people in 
traditional trades, engaged for the most part in physical labour. Yet 
in the wake of the scientific and technological revolution the tradi¬ 
tional dividing line between those engaged mainly in physical work 
and those engaged in brain work was obviously transformed. The 
level of “intelligence” associated with a particular trade or job be¬ 
gan to be determined not by whether it involved work at a desk or 
at a machine, but by the level of education essential for it and the 
creative elements it involved. A certain group of office workers, for 
example, engaged in monotonous operations for processing official 
papers and documents carried out work demanding far less skill 
than that carried out by many workers. A number of trades in the 
category “physical labour” lost the basic characteristic that used 
to be associated with that kind of work—they no longer involved 
muscle power. Muscular effort no longer came into play at all in 
the work of a control-panel operator in charge of an automated pro¬ 
duction unit. Meanwhile there was a rapid rise in the importance 
of such qualities as speed of reactions, the ability to make decisions 
quickly, technical knowledge, etc. 

The need for middle-ranking technical personnel in the wake of 
scientific and technological progress increased rapidly. This was 
linked both with the improved technical level of production and 
also with the broadening scale of research work and experimental 
testing and designing. 







174 


CHAPTER 4 


The total number of technicians in the United States (most 0 f 
these in industry) increased from 815,000 in 1960 to 1,250,000 j n 
1970. 1 2 In France this category of personnel increased from 344,000 
in 1962 to 759,000 in 1975, i.e. it more than doubled in 13 years. * 
In Britain in 1961, according to figures published by the Minist¬ 
ry of Labour, there were 365,000 industrial technicians and j n 
the ten years that followed their number increased by two- 
thirds 3 (the number of draughtsmen and laboratory assistants over 
the 50 years—-1921-1971—increased seven times over 4 ). A large 
proportion of technicians do not carry out any administrative func¬ 
tions and as far as their place in production, their role in the orga¬ 
nisation of labour, and the level of their wages are concerned they 
belong to the industrial proletariat, to its most skilled stratum. 

If we take into account those employed in new trades and pro¬ 
fessions, then the total number of the industrial proletariat in the 
United States rose from twenty-five million to 31 or 32 million 
during the period 1950-1970. 5 

An analysis of the class structure of scientific and technical per¬ 
sonnel in the Federal Republic of Germany, made by the Institute 
for Marxist Research in Frankfort on the Main brought to light a 
trend for the rapprochement between scientific and technical per¬ 
sonnel, on the one hand, and skilled workers, on the other, and the 
fact that a considerable section of the scientific and technical per- 


1 Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1973, pp. 235-238. 

2 Economic et statistique, No. 91, 1977, pp. 4-5. 

3 Occupational Changes. 1951-1961, London, 1967, p. 11. 

4 G. Routh, Occupation and Pay in Great Britain, 1906-1979, London, 1980, 
p. 17. 

5 These calculations are based on the data taken from Census of Popula¬ 
tion. Detailed Characteristics. Insofar as official statistics regarding the 
various trades and professions plied by the work force in the capitalist 
countries do not provide an adequate basis for assessing its class composi¬ 
tion, the data provided here are inevitably of an approximate nature. The 
difference between these calculations and those published earlier (see for 
example: The Working Class in the Social Structure of the Industrially 
Developed Capitalist Countries, p. 314) can evidently be explained by the 
fact that the divisions between the various detachments of the proletariat 
in this volume are based on differences between spheres of application 
(industry, services sector, etc.) and not on types of work. Using methods 
evolved by the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, 
USSR Academy of Sciences, the term “industrial proletariat” is used to in¬ 
clude not only hired workers engaged mainly in physical labour and em¬ 
ployed in industry, building, the transport network and communications and 
the unemployed formerly participating in such work, but also representatives 
of new industrial trades which, in their essential characteristics, can be 
classified as belonging to the working class (technicians, draughtsmen, 
repair and maintenance workers specialising in computer technology) and 
also some of the white-collar workers employed in industry, construction 
projects, transport and communications. 














































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


175 


s onnel—the lowest two of the five categories into which this part 
of the work force is divided, and the third in part, amounting to 
a total of between 1,000,000 and 1,400,000—can be viewed as part 
of the working class in the light of its main class characteristics. 1 
If we take into account that part of these new detachments of the 
work force in industry, then the overall total for the industrial pro¬ 
letariat in the Federal Republic came to between 12 and 13 million 
in the mid-70s. 2 

Under capitalism, the processes of change in the workers’ skills 
are of a complex, contradictory nature. 

In comparison with old all-purpose machine-tools the specialised 
equipment in the modern factory demands less mental skill of the 
worker but more precision in his work. The overall technological 
level of production becomes more advanced and mass production 
based on the principle of interchangeability of parts demands a high 
level of precision in the processing of details. For this reason cer¬ 
tain categories of semi-skilled workers working with specialised 
machine-tools in a modern enterprise possess higher skills than 
skilled workers in a workshop of a semi-artisan type. 

Automation represents a qualitatively new stage in the develop¬ 
ment of industrial technology. The principal difference between 
automation and various forms of mechanisation is the existence of 
the feedback circuit, which takes on the function of the immediate 
control of the work process. In conditions of complete, or compre¬ 
hensive automation man no longer directly participates in the actu¬ 
al work process. His functions are confined first to the elaboration 
of programmes and technological modes of operation for the auto¬ 
mated production units, secondly to general inspection and control 
of their functioning, and thirdly to the regulation, adjustment and 
repair of automated units. In branches of industry where the pro¬ 
cess of all-embracing automation of production is underway, skilled 
workers are coming to constitute an increasing share of the work 
force, while the proportion of unskilled workers is on the decline. 
In certain enterprises with a high degree of automation skilled 
workers constitute an absolute majority of the workers. 

However, in addition to enterprises with comprehensive automa¬ 
tion which is only used in branches of industry with a continuous 
production cycle, in the chemical, oil-processing, metallurgical and 
food industries and power plants there exist other partial or incom¬ 
plete forms of automation, when only certain operations within a 


1 Klassen und Sozialstruktur der BRD. 1950-1970, Part II, Frankfort on the 
Main, 1973, pp. 240-260. 

2 Calculations are based on Statistisches Jahrbuch fdr die BRD, 1979. 
Compare: The Working Class in the Social Structure of the Industrially 
Developed Capitalist Countries, p. 314 and Note 5 on page 174 of this volume. 






176 


CHAPTER 4 


production cycle are automated, not the whole cycle. The rapijj 
development of automation since the mid-50s in the industrially 
veloped capitalist countries has been in the field of partial or i n „ 
complete automation. While elements of automation such as auto¬ 
mated series of machine tools and automated electronically p ro , 
grammed machine tools are widely used in production, comprehen¬ 
sive automation is still at an early stage of its development. 

Various forms of automation influence the skills patterns in the 
work force in different ways. While complete automation makes it 
possible to exclude man from the production process, partial forms 
of automation mean that there are still a number of operations de¬ 
manding the direct involvement of the worker in the production 
process. Capitalist rationalisation of the organisation of labour is 
aimed at making these operations as elementary and easily acces¬ 
sible to workers as possible, so that only short-term minimal train¬ 
ing is required. It was precisely these processes that attracted so 
much attention in the United States in the 50s and led American 
researchers investigating conditions in industry to come to the con¬ 
clusion that automation leads to a drop in the level of workers’ 
skills. 1 The introduction of partial forms of automation enables 
factory owners to replace on a large scale skilled machine-tool oper¬ 
ators with machine operators given only a minimum of training 
and taken on as semi-skilled workers. This development is most 
conspicuous with regard to workers engaged in loading automatic 
production lines and then unloading the finished product. 

Automation as it is introduced on an increasingly wide scale dis¬ 
penses with the need to divide the labour process into elementary 
operations, which means that each worker is used to be responsible 
only for a very small part of the process. When comprehensive 
automation is introduced, then the worker with a single trade or 
skill, or the narrow specialist, will be replaced by a worker with 
several skills, a versatile specialist, who can turn his hand to a wide 
range of operations and who possesses technical expertise. 

The broadening range of skills required of the individual worker 
paves the way for the combination of a number of special skills, 
which may be demanded, say, of the operator or maintenance work¬ 
er in automated systems in the oil-processing industry. These 
processes are to be observed in other branches of industry as well: 
in mechanical engineering we now find skilled machine operators 
who themselves adjust and repair their machine-tools. The growing 
speed and extent of changes in technological processes and the 
continuous introduction of new technology have led to the appear¬ 
ance of many skilled workers who are able to master new technol- 


1 New Views on Automation, New York, 1961, pp. 54, 60-61. 















































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


177 


0 gy as they go along, to take part in improving it. This broadening 
of the individual worker’s range of skills is also necessary if pro¬ 
duction is to be quickly reorientated so as to be able to cope with 
new advanced types of output. All these developments enhance the 
importance of the “all-rounder”, who is coming to occupy a key 
role in many branches of industry and in other branches of the 
economy as well. 

A significant feature of the new type of skills required is their 
flexibility. When production is evolving rapidly it is essential that 
there should be a constant extension of specialised knowledge. For 
this reason for many categories of skilled workers constant studies 
and refresher courses have become an essential condition of their 
work in a specialised area. Each time they lag behind it means their 
skills start to become obsolete. According to American statistics, 
on average a worker’s skill becomes totally obsolete over a period 
of ten years. In the most dynamic branches of industry in the 
forefront of technological progress, such as the aerospace 
industry or production of computers, this period is significantly 
shorter. 

The fact that skills become more and more adaptable exerts a 
considerable influence upon the whole system of the organisation 
of production. The need has arisen to set up an on-the-spot training 
system for workers that would function all the time and would not 
take the workers away from their job. Retraining for workers has 
become, in this age of the scientific and technological revolution, 
one of the most important ingredients for the organisation of the 
production process. 

All these features of the new type of skill can be realised only 
if there is a basis to build on, namely a fairly good grounding in 
general subjects that young workers are given'in school. The stan¬ 
dard of general training, essential for mastering many industrial 
skills, is roughly that reached by secondary education. Earlier voca¬ 
tional training was based mainly on the acquisition of practical 
skills and could proceed separately from general education, but now 
general education has become the essential basis for vocational 
training, an integral part of the latter. Without it, it is impossible 
for the young worker to acquire a broad range of skills and to im¬ 
prove his level. 

In Japan, the proportion of industrial workers who completed 
part or all their secondary education (9-12 years’ schooling) has 
more than doubled: from 15.3 per cent in 1950 to 34.9 per cent in 
1971. 1 According to 1977 figures, 36.49 per cent of workers com- 


1 Modem Capitalism and the Working Class: A Critique of Anti-Marxist 
Conceptions, p. 60. 


12-0515 






178 


CHAPTER 4 


pleled their secondary education; 4.69 per cent of workers graduat¬ 
ed from college or university. 1 

In the Federal Republic of Germany, over 90 per cent of indus¬ 
trial workers had completed in 1977 their secondary education, 
either general or vocational (nine years in school plus two or three 
years training in industry). At the beginning of the 60s the equiv¬ 
alent figure was less than half. Meanwhile the share of workers with 
a higher or secondary technical education had risen from 1 per cent 
in 1961 to 2 per cent in 1977. 2 

There was a marked rise in the level of education among Ameri¬ 
can workers in the 50s. The share of urban workers who had not 
completed their (12-year) secondary education was 75.4 per cent in 
1962, 60.6 per cent in 1970, and a mere 38.9 per cent in 1979. 
During the 70s the proportion of workers who had studied for a 
year or more at college doubled, reaching the level of 15.7 percent. 3 

The considerable rise in the educational level of the industrial 
core of the proletariat stems from the active, creative role which 
the working class plays in the development of scientific and tech¬ 
nological progress. The rise in the level of workers’ skills is one 
of the major trends in the age of the scientific and technological 
revolution. But the production relations of capitalism hold back 
considerably this objective trend. The appearance of new jobs dem¬ 
anding a better qualified work force does not mean that the skills 
of those already employed automatically rise. Some workers are 
retrained, and others, in particular older workers are made redund¬ 
ant or moved over to less qualified jobs. Young workers with higher 
levels of training take their place. This gives rise to chronic unem¬ 
ployment. Market fluctuations hardly affect the unemployed, since 
they can never return to their old jobs as these no longer exist. 

Moreover, in addition to the new technology which demands 
workers with a new level of skills, there is a variety of forms of 
mechanisation and partial automation. The use of the latter leads 
to the parcelling of labour and to the contraction of the professional 
skills of a considerable section of workers. According to figures 
drawn from surveys in eight branches of West Germany industry, 
29.1 per cent of workers discharged monotonous partial functions; 
15.7 per cent of the workers operated machine tools and machines; 


1 Nihon Tokai Nankan, 1978, p. 54. 

2 Calculated from: Wirtschaft und Statistik, Herausgeber: Statistisches 
Bundesamt Wiesbaden, 1979, No. 12, p. 875; Bildungsbericht ... ’70. Bericht 
der Bundesregierung zur Bildungspolitik, Bonn, 1970, p. 60; Bildungspolitische 
Zwischenbilanz, Bonn, 1976, p. 53. 

3 Calculated from: Monthly Labour Review, Vol. 94, No. 11, 1971, p. 34; 
1980, Vol. 103, No. 7, p. 45 (the 1962 figures included workers aged 18 and 
over and the 1970 and 1979 figures included workers aged 25 and over). 
























SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE "WORKING CLASS 


179 


11.4 per cent were engaged in technical maintenance work; 10.9 per 
cent regulated instruments; 5.1 per cent supervised the work of 
automated machinery, and finally 10 per cent of the workers ser¬ 
viced automated units which demanded high-level skills. 

Table 3 


Changes in the Skills Structure of the Working Class 
(industrial workers engaged in physical work — in percentages) 


Country 
and year 

Total no. 
of workers 

Skilled workers, 
including 
foremen 

Semi-skilled 

workers 

Unskilled 

workers 

USA 





1950 

100 

32.9 

52.0 

15.1 

1970 

100 

36.6 

50.0 

13.4 

1979 

100 

40.1 

46.2 

13.7 

Britain 





1961 

100 

54.2 

30.3 

15.5 

1971 

100 

54.2 

29.1 

16.7 

France 





1954 

100* 

51.6 

28.0 

17.3 

1968 

100* 

41.3 

34.7 

20.7 

1975 

100* 

43.1 

35.9 

19.6 

frg 





1951 

100 

47.6 

28.0 

24.4 

1969 

100 

42.8 

36.9 

20.2 

1974** 

100 

43.9 

36.4 

19.7 

Italy 





1951 

100 

49.0 

24.1 

26.9 

1971 

100 

56.0 

25.5 

17.5 


* Including apprentice workers (1 to 3 per cent, depending on the year), 
t ** Figures calculated by the Institute of ti e International Labour Movement, 
USSR Academy of Sciences .jt 

Sources: Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1964, p. 228; 1973, p. 223; 1980, 
p. 403; Department of Employment Gazette, October 1975, p. 985; Economie et 
siatistique, 1977, No. 91, pp. 4-5; Marxistische Blatter, September-Oktober 
1972, p. 44; Scienza e organizzazzone del lavoro, Turin, 1975, p. 25; The Work¬ 
ing Class in the Social Structure of the Industrially Developed Capitalist 
Countries, p. 316. 

Information as to the nature of the work carried out by the remain¬ 
ing 17.8 per cent was not available. 1 

These contradictory processes are reflected to some extent in the 
Diore comprehensive statistics, provided in Table 3. 

1 Figures quoted in: Klassen- und Sozialstruktur der BRD. 1950-1970. 

Part 2, p. 184. 

12* 










The division of workers for statistical purposes in the majority 
of advanced capitalist countries into three main categories: skilled 
semi-skilled (known as “specialised” workers in France, and “trained 
workers” in the FRG and “operators” in the United States) and 
unskilled—is to a large extent out of date, although statistics using 
these categories can still provide some idea of changes in workers’ 
skills. 

As is clear from this table, the proportion of skilled workers was 
rising in the United States and Italy, yet was fluctuating in the 
FRG and France (in Britain it remained stable). These differences 
are partially linked with features of national statistics in the individ¬ 
ual countries and also with the fact that specific stages of tech¬ 
nical development in the industry of the United States and Western 
Europe did not always coincide in time. In the United States, the 
transition to assembly-line production began as early as the 20s 
and was completed during the Second World War. In the 50s the 
bulk of metal-cutting machine tools were specialised machines ser¬ 
viced by semi-skilled workers. The introduction of automation tend¬ 
ed to oust semi-skilled machine-operators from industry and led to 
an increase in the proportion of technicians and maintenance work¬ 
ers drawn from the ranks of skilled workers. 

In the FRG, France and a number of other West European coun¬ 
tries the transition to assembly-line production was not complete 
until the late 50s and early 60s. It led to a replacing of many skilled 
workers by semi-skilled ones. Yet as the processes of automation 
became more advanced, the reverse trend began to predominate: 
the proportion of skilled workers in the total labour force was on 
the increase. 

When assessing these changes in the skills patterns to be found 
in industry it is essential to draw a distinction between the im¬ 
pact of new technology, on the one hand, and the results of delib¬ 
erate policies pursued by the monopolies with regard to rates of 
pay, on the other hand. Monopolistic associations go out of their 
way to use technological progress, so as to break down old pay 
.scales and to lower the skill category of workers. 

The uneven nature of technological progress in various branches 
of production and in factories of varying sizes meant that there 
was still a large-scale retention of relatively unskilled labour involv¬ 
ing specialised operations. In an effort to economise on labour costs 
capitalist enterprises continued to use labour of this kind where 
market conditions made it possible, together with the condition of 
technical equipment and the level of the working people’s organisa¬ 
tion and militancy. 

The broadening of the sphere in which highly skilled workers 
are employed and increasing expenditure on retraining workers took 



































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


181 


ilace only in those branches of industry and in factories where 
such measures were responsible for growing profits and the contin¬ 
uing ability to keep abreast of competitors. The enhanced level of 
knowledge that workers had acquired as a result of better education 
was regarded in many quarters merely as a “reserve” that could be 
used if the need were to arise to modernise production techniques 
and technology. The level and content of the skills possessed by 
ever more workers thus turned out to be totally at variance with 
the real labour functions assigned to them. 

All in all, the rise in the industrial proletariat’s level of skills 
and education which proceed at a different rate in different coun¬ 
tries and industries and in antagonistic forms, usually associated 
with capitalist relations of production, engenders class contradic¬ 
tions and prompts the working class to extend its demands in the 
course of its struggle. The new social make-up of the working class 
is more and more often at loggerheads with the system of exploita¬ 
tion and social oppression, which determines its position under cap¬ 
italism. 


FOREIGN WORKERS 

In a number of countries the appearance of large armies of immig¬ 
rant workers was to bring about considerable changes in the social 
composition of the working class. The exploitation of immigrant 
workers’ labour in the industrially developed capitalist countries 
was not a new phenomenon. Lenin in his day had pointed out the 
advantages for the imperialist countries to be gained from limitless 
and shameless exploitation of “cheap” foreign workers: it is to their 
lot that the heaviest common labour always falls. 1 

However, in the 60s and early 70s foreign labour was used on 
an unprecedented scale, particularly in the industrial countries of 
W estern Europe which had become the main centres attracting im¬ 
migrant workers. This phenomenon stemmed from the increasing 
unevenness of economic development in the capitalist world, when 
accelerated economic growth in the West European countries coin¬ 
cided with an inadequate supply of local labour up until the mid- 
60s. At the same time in the less developed countries, in particular 
those of Southern Europe there was a surplus of labour, and unem¬ 
ployment led the more active among the young and healthy to look 
for ways to earn their living abroad, in particular since the level of 
wages in the industrially developed countries was usually consid¬ 
erably higher. In 1970, the total number of foreign workers in the 


1 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 26, 1972, p. 168. 






182 


CHAPTER 4 


seven main centres of immigration (West Germany, France, Swit¬ 
zerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Sweden) came 
to around 8,700,000 and in 1975 had reached almost eleven mil¬ 
lion. In the 60s, the immigrant workers came for the most part 
without their families, but in the 70s dependents accounted for a 
larger share of the immigrant population . 1 Immigrants were de¬ 
ployed as follows: in France 38.2 per cent, in West Germany 37.3 
per cent, in Switzerland 9.2 per cent, in the Netherlands 3.2 
per cent, in Sweden 3.7 per cent, and in Luxemburg 0.8 per cent . 2 
Large contingents of immigrant workers also set out to Britain, 
Austria, and the Scandinavian countries. All in all, including 
dependents and illegal immigrants, the total came to between 14 
and 15 million, as opposed to 3,200,000 at the beginning of 
the 60s. 

Moreover, among the immigrants in the nine countries of the 
EEC in the late 60s there was an absolute majority—as much as 
80 per cent of the total—of foreign workers from countries that 
were not members of the Community and who, therefore, did not 
enjoy the many rights and advantages for immigrants from EEC 
countries (such as Italy, for example). Between 1962 and 1974, 
the biggest rise in numbers of immigrants was among those from 
the Mediterranean countries of Europe: in 1974, these accounted 
for 52 per cent of all immigrants in the EEC, while those from 
North Africa accounted for 8.5 per cent of the total. Meanwhile, 
the influx from Turkey rose from 16,000 to 720,000, that from Por¬ 
tugal went up from 3,000 to 487,000 and that from Greece from 
73,000 to 282,000. Meanwhile the influx from Italy which had long 
been the main source of immigrant labour remained stable, around 
the million mark, while the proportion of Italians among all the 
foreign workers dropped during the same period from 33 to 14 per 
cent. 3 

Immigration of foreign workers into France and Britain was of 
a different kind: approximately a third of the foreign workers im¬ 
migrating into France was from North Africa, while most of the 
immigrants coming to Britain were from former dominions and 
colonies, so-called coloured workers from countries such as India, 
Pakistan and the West Indies. 

Immigrant labour was used on the widest scale of all in France. 
West Germany, Switzerland and Luxemburg. By the end of the 70s 
foreign workers had made up between 20 and 25 per cent of hired 


1 L’offre et les migrations de main d'oeuvre en Europe. Dimensions demo - 
graphiques (1950-1975) et perspectives. Nations Unies, New York, 1980, p. 84. 

2 U.N. Economic and Social Council, Trade/R 394, April 3, 1980, p. 1. 

3 The International Trade Union Movement, No. 5, 1976, pp. 30-31. 












































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


183 


workers in Switzerland, 9 to 10 per cent in West Germany and 9 
per cent in France. 1 

In Western Europe, immigrant labour is used most of all for 
heavy unskilled work in the construction and extractive industries, 
in ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy and in those branches of in¬ 
dustry relying mainly on conveyor-belt labour with monotonous re¬ 
petitive operations that do not demand special qualification, as, for 
example, in the motor industry, but also in such work as cleaning, 
street sweeping, etc. In France, the percentages of foreign workers 
in the construction and motor industries were 37.5 and 26 respect¬ 
ively: less than a third of immigrant workers possessed any qualifi¬ 
cation. 2 

The exploitation of foreign workers brings enormous profits to the 
capitalist entrepreneurs. According to estimates drawn up by the 
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 
the EEC countries alone economise annually by exploiting cheap 
immigrant labour £21,000 million, i.e. approximately £3,000 per 
worker. One of the ways in which this economy is made is through 
the rotation system, i.e. through the fairly rapid replacement of one 
group of mainly unskilled workers by another, thus making it pos¬ 
sible for the employers not to pay workers social insurance benefits, 
which require the recipient to have a fairly long work record be¬ 
fore he becomes eligible for such payments: in West Germany and 
France, foreign workers were paid respectively on average 15 and 
17.4 per cent less than local workers, and this was not always be¬ 
cause of their low qualifications but also because qualifications ob¬ 
tained in the country of origin were not usually recognised else¬ 
where. 3 A similar situation could be found in other West European 
countries. 

Increasing employment problems and the rising unemployment 
after the late 60s, the economic crisis of 1974 to 1975 and the ensu¬ 
ing uneven and unfavourable development of the West European 
economy led to new legislation designed to limit immigration, from 
countries outside the Community. The sharpest decline in recruit¬ 
ment of foreign workers was to be observed in France, West Ger¬ 
many and Switzerland. At the same time, various methods began to 
be used to “persuade” unemployed immigrants of the need to leave 
whichever West European country they happen to be living in. It 
is difficult to establish the exact number of foreign workers who 
left Western Europe. Rough estimates arrived at by the ILO and 


1 Vorwarts, July 14, 1979; L'Humanite, May 31, 1979. 

2 The Financial Times, August 1, 1977; L’Offre et les migrations de main 
d’oeuvre ..., p. 172. 

3 IPW-Berichte, No. 5, 1975, p. 36; ProbUmes economiques, September 29, 
1976, p. 15. 





184 


CHAPTER 4 


other official international and national bodies for the five years 
from 1973 to 1978 put the figure at between 1.5 and 2 million (and 
it was also established that over two million immigrants lost their 
jobs during the same period). 1 

Between 1973 and 1978, close on 910,000 people left West Ger¬ 
many, for instance, yet there still remained at least two million and 
in France 1,600,000 immigrants. 2 These were above all people who 
had lived between five and ten years in West European countries 
and had been granted local citizenship. This means that more and 
more immigrant workers and their families in the industrially de¬ 
veloped countries of Western Europe are becoming not a temporary 
but a permanent part of the population. Despite this, however, they 
are not being assimilated among the indigenous inhabitants: in¬ 
stead they are subjected to discrimination and obliged to live in 
conditions vastly inferior to those enjoyed by the indigenous popu¬ 
lation. 

A number of bourgeois researchers, including some from OECD, 
are forced to acknowledge that sending immigrants home does not 
in any way lead to an increase in the number of jobs for the indi¬ 
genous population. In some branches, such as the construction in¬ 
dustry, the absence of foreign workers can even lead to a fall in 
production and still more dismissals in allied industries. 3 Despite 
high levels of unemployment in the countries of Western Europe 
there are still a few heavy jobs with a low social status which the 
local inhabitants are not prepared to contemplate. 

Although under the 1968 resolution passed by the EEC countries, 
an end was put to discrimination relating to conditions of employ¬ 
ment, wages and working conditions for immigrants from the EEC 
countries, for immigrants coming from outside the EEC, i.e., for 
by far the largest category, many types of discrimination still exist. 
Indeed, it needs to be pointed out that to a certain extent it exists 
in practice for the ‘'privileged” immigrants from the EEC as well. 
Admittedly these categories of foreign workers were given the right 
to join trade unions and be elected to executive positions, in trade 
unions and to representative bodies, and also the right to use the 
same social privileges as local workers, to receive vocational train¬ 
ing and retraining. Yet in the vast majority of cases a whole range 
of factors—economic, socio-psychological, and linguistic, in addition 
to very low levels of general education and vocational training— 
continues to determine their far from equal position in society and 
prevent them from obtaining more skilled work. The rapid turnover 

1 International Labour Review, No. 4, 1979, p. 401. 

2 International Labour Review, No. 4, 1979, p. 402; La Suisse, April 10, 
1980. 

3 Le Monde, April 19, 1979. 










































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


185* 


in enterprises employing large numbers of immigrant workers stem¬ 
ming to a large extent from the endeavours on the part of the- 
monopolies and governments to maintain rotation and to keep down 
social spending, all make it impossible for them to receive many 
supplementary payments and social benefits. 

The continued presence of several million foreign workers and 
their families in West European countries gave rise to the acute 
problem as to how to cope with the “second-generation” immigrants. 
In 1974, in the countries of Western Europe, the total number of 
immigrant workers’ children reached four million. 1 The capitalist- 
society was incapable of helping the children of these immigrant 
workers to overcome the language barrier in order to study in or¬ 
dinary and vocational schools in the host country. The customary 
isolation of immigrant workers from the social and cultural life 
of the host country, the concentration of these workers in virtual 
ghettos in the big cities encourage the older generation to preserve^ 
their national customs and way of life, and to refuse to integrate- 
with the population of the host country. Very many of these im¬ 
migrant workers’ children do not attend school at all. In a special 
UN report in 1974 it was pointed out that in Western Europe al¬ 
most 300,000 immigrants’ children are not given any general educa¬ 
tion at all; from the two million children attending school, as they 
are obliged to by law, very few progress beyond the primary stage. 
In France, close on 20 per cent of these children (particularly, 
those from North African families) do not even learn to read, 60' 
per cent experience major learning difficulties and only 20 per cent 
are able to complete their secondary schooling. !ln West Germany, 
where particularly large numbers of Turks are employed, 60 per 
cent of immigrant workers’ children receive no secondary education 
certificate. In other words, they are virtually deprived of the chance 
to obtain any kind of skilled work in the future. 2 

In general, only a negligible proportion of immigrant workers’ 
children in West Germany and France can study in various voca¬ 
tional courses; in France, where such courses were set up in 
order to implement the National Pact for Employment (1977), 
only six per cent of those attending such courses were from 
immigrants’ families and another four per cent of the young people 
attending courses combined with apprenticeships in factories. 3 In 
Switzerland (where Italian workers form the main contingent of 
the immigrant population), 20 per cent of “second generation” im¬ 
migrants were able to obtain training as apprentices, as opposed to 
60 per cent of young people from the indigenous population. 

1 International Labour Review, No. 6, 1979, p. 764. 






186 


CHAPTER 4 


As a result of this state of affairs a “second generation” of im_ 
migrant workers are growing up within Western Europe, who from 
■the earliest childhood have been subject to the most serious discrim¬ 
ination as regards opportunities for obtaining general education 
■or vocational training. This means that members of the new genera¬ 
tion, like the previous one, are condemned to heavy, unskilled and 
low-paid work, to unemployment, to low living and cultural stan¬ 
dards. 

In the USA, the phenomenon of immigrant workers as such, does 
not officially exist. In this case reference can only be made to the 
-actual working and living conditions which immigrant workers have 
to tolerate and to the way in which their situation abruptly deterio¬ 
rated in the 70s as a result of the economic recession, growing in¬ 
flation and unemployment. Yet immigrants who enter the United 
States legally (numbers are restricted to 400,000 a year 1 ) only 
■ constitute the tip of the iceberg. More intricate and complicated is 
the question of the “illegal aliens”, who despite all the bans and 
barriers continue to flood into the USA in numbers far greater than 
those of the legal immigrants. 

No precise information is available about the number of “illegal 
•aliens” at present living on US soil. Experts from the Census Bu¬ 
reau put the figure at between 3.5 and 5 million, while those from 
the Immigration and Naturalisation Service maintain that there 
must be between 6 and 12 million. 2 More precise information is 
• available with regard to those who enter the country without per¬ 
mission every year. Their number comes to 800,000 or 900,000 and 
d0 per cent of them are Mexicans. 3 Their status outside the law 
-condemns them to the dirtiest, most unskilled work that is low paid 
and often dangerous. Safety regulations and legislation on mini¬ 
mum rates of pay and collective bargaining offer them no protec¬ 
tion. It is precisely the availability of illegal aliens 1 labour that has 
brought into being again clandestine sweat-shops like those in which 
immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were exploited at 
The beginning of the century. Investigation of some of these sweat¬ 
shops revealed that those working in them in 1979 were underpaid 
by $162,500,000, if their rates of pay were compared with the then 
minimum wage. 4 

American labour unions until recently either ignored the “illegal 
■aliens” or, fearing competition on the labour market, campaigned 
for stricter legislation against them. Yet in the last few years some 
■unions have fundamentally reviewed their position and begun to 

1 US News and World Report, January 29, 1979, p. 38. 

2 New York Times, July 8, 1980. 

3 US News and World Report, January 29, 1979, p. 38. 

4 Ibid., January 14, 1980, p. 73. 
















































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


187 


encourge “illegal aliens’' to join their ranks. A particularly effec¬ 
tive campaign is that waged by the United Farmworkers Union, ac¬ 
tive mainly in the “sun belt” of the South and South West, i.e. in 
those states where the influx of such immigrants is particularly 
great. 1 

All in all, the emigration of millions of workers to countries 
other than their own gives rise to a host of complex social and 
political problems, and confronts the organisations of the working 
class with various, sometimes difficult tasks. 

THE AGRICULTURAL PROLETARIAT 

The scientific and technological revolution and changes in the cap¬ 
italist economy have had a major impact on the agricultural prole¬ 
tariat. 

Agriculture is the only major branch of production in which 
hired workers constitute the minority of the active population. In 
its composition the agricultural proletariat is not homogeneous. 
Apart from differences in levels of skills and education and wages 
there are differences with regard to length of employment, forms 
of payment and property status (some of the farmers are have-nots, 
while others possess small land holdings). 

'In forms of employment agricultural workers are usually divided 
into two categories: those hired on a permanent basis, and those 
hired on a temporary basis. These categories are, however, inter¬ 
preted differently in various countries. In some countries, regular 
workers are those who are employed throughout the year; in others 
the term implies those workers who have contracts extending over 
a sizable period, at least six months. The notion of temporary work¬ 
ers is even more vague. In some cases it merely means seasonal 
workers, while in others it implies both seasonal workers and those 
hired by the day. National statistics in one and the same country 
often provide quite different figures with regard to numbers of reg¬ 
ular and casual agricultural workers. The dividing line between 
regular and seasonal workers, just as that between seasonal work¬ 
ers and those hired by the day is vague in the extreme. 

In US agriculture, for instance, close on 1,300,000 hired workers 
were employed in 1976. 2 However, by no means all of these could 
be regarded as agricultural labourers in terms of their main duties. 
Among them there were a good number of persons who could not 
be regarded at all as part of the country’s active population: for 
the most part they were students and housewives anxious to add to 


1 Wall Street Journal, November 13, 1979. 

2 Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1977, p. 399. 






188 


CHAPTER 4 


their income by working in agriculture. In almost all countries wide, 
use is made of young people and children for temporary work. 
the United States, in 1970 42 per cent of day labourers and 33 p er 
cent of seasonal workers were aged between 14 and 17. 1 Cases of 
children aged between 10 and 13 are not common either. 

The scientific and technological revolution which led to a partic¬ 
ularly rapid rise in labour productivity in the sphere of agriculture 
caused an abrupt drop in the number of farm workers. Moreover, 
in the United States (and in a number of other advanced capitalist 
countries) the number of farm workers employed on a permanent 
basis is decreasing more rapidly. Between 1949 and 1970 the num¬ 
ber of casual workers in US agriculture descreased by 33 per cent,, 
that of seasonal workers by 41 per cent and that of permanent 
workers by 51 per cent. By the beginning of the 70s the permanent 
workers constituted a fifth of the hired work force and seasonal 
workers a third. The largest group of hired agricultural workers— 
almost half—consisted of workers employed for less than 25 days 
a year. 

In France, between 1962 and 1975 the number of hired agricul¬ 
tural workers dropped from 826,000 to 376,000. The proportion 
of hired workers among those employed in agriculture dropped from 
23 to 18 per cent. 2 

In Italy, the number of hired agricultural workers dropped from 
1,670,000 to 1,147,000 between 1963 and 1976. Moreover, Italian 
agriculture was characterised by a high proportion of hired workers: 
in 1976 they accounted for approximately 39 per cent. 3 

In West Germany, permanently employed hired workers in agri¬ 
culture numbered 527,000 in 1956-1957 and only 96,000 in 1977. 4 

In the United States, the number of farm workers also fell, yet 
their proportion among those engaged in agriculture rose. The share 
of hired agricultural labourers working for more than 25 days a 
year in the whole of the active agricultural population went up 
from 23 per cent in 1950 to 38.6 per cent in 1978. These figures 
mean that the reduction in the number of small and medium farm¬ 
ers and working family members was proceeding more rapidly in 
the United States than the ousting of hired labour. 

Despite the reduction in the overall number of hired agricultural 
labourers, their role in production is as important as ever. As land, 
production and capital are being concentrated, hired agricultural 
labour is being employed more and more on large-scale capitalist 
farms and on the most successful small-scale capitalist farms, which 

1 The Hired Farm Working Force of 1970, Washington, 1972, p. IT 

2 Annuaire statistique de la France, 1978, p. 159. 

3 Annuario statistico italiano, 1964, p. 377; 1977, p. 332. 

4 Statistisches Jahrbuch fur die BHD, 1972, p. 40; 1978, p. 141. 








































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


189 


together produce the hulk of marketable output. In Britain, 50 per 
cen t of all farms produced in 1968 only 6 per cent of the output, 
while 12 per cent of the farms produced 54 per cent of the total 
agricultural output, with the farms of the latter category employing 
39 per cent of the hired labour force in agriculture. 1 

In the United States, where capitalist concentration in agriculture 
has progressed a good deal farther than in most other advanced 
capitalist countries, there were many large farms at the end of the 
70s, each of which produced output valued at several hundred thou¬ 
sand dollars. A similar concentration of production would be un¬ 
thinkable without the concentration of hired labour. 

Technological progress in agriculture was reflected in the predom¬ 
inance of universal machines and sources of energy. This meant 
that to a growing extent agricultural workers with a narrow range 
of special skills had to be replaced by labourers with broader train¬ 
ing, able not only to operate a system of machines, but also pos¬ 
sessing knowledge and know-how necessary for carrying out a large 
cycle of production operations. In this connection the problem of 
training qualified employees was becoming more and more acute. 

The capitalists succeeded in preserving within agriculture ex¬ 
tremely disadvantageous working conditions. The farm labourers’ wa¬ 
ges were considerably lower than those received by industrial work¬ 
ers. This reflected the specific relationship between supply and 
demand on the labour market, which was extremely disadvantageous 
for agricultural workers, and also the weakness of their trade union 
organisations. 

However, the concentration of hired labour on large capitalist 
farms leads to an exacerbation of the contradictions between labour 
and capital. Thus, more agricultural labourers feel inclined now to 
organise trade unions and extend the scale of strike action. 

PROLETARIAN DETACHMENTS OF OFFICE WORKERS 

In connection with the scientific and technological revolution in the 
post-war period and the further development of SMC there has been 
rapid growth and change in new detachments of the proletariat- 
in various groups of ordinary office workers (the lower and in part 
the middle echelons). As pointed out earlier, they constitute a sig¬ 
nificant stratum of the industrial proletariat and also predominate 
in the ranks of the working class in the service sector. 

Lenin pointed out that low-ranking office workers were becoming 
proletarianised as early as 1917. 2 More recently the British sociol- 


1 The Sociological Review, August 1972, pp. 424, 425. 

2 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 26, p. 106. 






190 


CHAPTER 4 


ogist and Communist H. Frankel wrote: “The major change in the 
proletariat since Marx’s time is the inclusion of millions of lower- 
paid non-manual workers.” 1 Office workers always found themselves 
in a situation similar to that of industrial workers in the sense 
that they did not own any means of production and were, therefore, 
obliged to earn their living by selling their labour. In other re¬ 
spects, however,—economic and in particular social (the nature and 
organisation of their labour, employment and wage levels, pensions 
and other allowances, status at work, and so on) —their position 
was rather different. Even office workers belonging to the most wide¬ 
spread occupations differed significantly from industrial workers 
with regard to their role and place in the production process, to the 
nature of their labour, the size of their income, to their social orig¬ 
ins, education levels, etc. 

Economic, social, and political development in the capitalist coun¬ 
tries particularly since the 50s has led to a significant narrowing 
of the gap between the office workers and industrial workers in 
widespread occupations with regard to all, or almost all the posi¬ 
tions already mentioned. The majority of office workers, low-rank¬ 
ing employees engaged in non-physical labour have found them¬ 
selves in a position which in many respects coincides with the posi¬ 
tion of the vast mass of workers: in view of this these detachments 
of the office workers can be regarded as part of the working class. 

It was the most numerous categories of non-manual workers who 
joined the working class: 1) low-ranking office , or clerical workers, 
i.e. mainly persons engaged in non-creative work in offices and in¬ 
stitutions of the state apparatus and all spheres of the capitalist 
economy; 2) hired sales workers, some of whom—loaders, ware¬ 
house employees, packers, and in certain cases shop assistants are 
essentially manual workers, while others have more in common with 
office workers; 2 3) middle-range specialists —persons possessing qua¬ 
lifications higher than those of industrial workers, who have, as a 
rule, a secondary specialised education (the largest groups within 
this category are technicians, nurses, certain categories of teachers 
and those employed in child care). 

The conclusion with regard to the merging of a number of mass- 
scale groups of “white-collar” workers with the working class does 
not apply to all employees within this group. Significant strata of 
non-manual hired workers, although in some respects they may 
have come to resemble the working class more, nevertheless, con- 


1 H. Frankel, Capitalist Society and Modern Sociology, London, 1970, p. 212. 

2 In connection with the widespread introduction of the latest forms of 
retailing the polarisation of '‘retail employees” into workers and office work¬ 
ers is becoming more pronounced. 
































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


191 


tinue to be different from it when it comes to their role in the so¬ 
cial organisation of labour, in the nature of their work, and levels 
0 f income, and so on. Thus, we may conclude that certain catego¬ 
ries of white-collar workers—the middle and lower-ranking adminis¬ 
trative staff and managers, the majority of specialists with a higher- 
education—still belong to the middle strata of capitalist society. For 
some groups this process of proletarianisation has gone far enough 
for their status to be defined as “semi-proletarian”. 

A special position is occupied by the top strata of white-collar 
workers, who are often incorporated into the capitalist class, 1 and 
to some extent by those immediately beneath them. This group com¬ 
prises the upper crust of administrative staff and highly qualified 
specialists. 

Statistics from various countries show how numbers of hired non- 
manual workers are growing. From official figures it is clear that 
by the beginning of the 70s white-collar workers of all categories 
had constituted approximately two-fifths of hired workers in each 
of the main West European countries, apart from Italy (where they 
made up approximately one quarter). In the United States they 
already accounted for half all hired workers. 

This growth in the proportion of white-collar workers also reflects 
changes in the structure of the whole of society and changes in the 
composition of the working class. In Britain, for example, accord¬ 
ing to rough estimates the proportion of industrial and office work¬ 
ers within the proletariat was as follows: in 1951 5:1, in 1961 
4: 1, in 1966 close on 3 :1, 2 and in 1971 2 : 1. The relative propor¬ 
tion of industrial and office workers in Italy was roughly the same 
at the beginning of the 70s. In most of the other advanced capitalist 
countries the number of low-ranking office workers was still closer 
to the number of industrial workers and in the United States it had 
even overtaken the number of industrial workers. 3 

Lenin explained this growth in the number of office employees 
first and foremost by reference to “the growth of large-scale cap¬ 
italist production, which requires non-manual employees to a de¬ 
gree rising in proportion to the increase in the use of machinery 
and the development of industries”. 4 In the era of the scientific and; 


1 Firstly, these are owners of firms who have become part of their per¬ 
sonnel (directors, head managers) when firms have turned into limited com¬ 
panies but retained their assets; secondly, hired directors and top adminis¬ 
trators receiving enormous salaries and bonuses, thus indirectly getting a 
considerable share of surplus-value (and often controlling block of shares); 
thirdly, the top stratum of personnel in the state apparatus. 

2 Great Britain, Moscow, 1972, p. 241 (in Russian). 

3 The Working Class in the Social Structure of the Industrially Developed 
Capitalist Countries, p. 314. 

4 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, 1977, p. 221. 







192 


CHAPTER 4 


technological revolution this factor has a particularly important rok 
■to play, especially in connection with various types of technical 
personnel. 

Changes affecting the numbers of ordinary office workers are of 
a more contradictory nature. All in all, technological progress has 
led to a greater demand for their labour. This is clear from the fact 
that their numbers in industry grew in all countries during the 50s 
and 60s. However, the introduction of computers limited this demand 
■and led to a slowing down in rates of growth for this category of 
•office workers (both in industry and in the services sector). The 
introduction of the latest technology based on the use of microelec¬ 
tronics (large integrated circuits), that began in the second half 
-of the 70s threatens with a drastic drop in the number of office 
■workers and has led to more unemployment in their ranks. The 
introduction of microelectronics has had a particularly strong impact 
•on the services sector, which until recently automation has passed 
hv. 

As a result of this, the share of office workers within the cate¬ 
gory of white-collar workers appears to be gradually decreasing. On 
the other hand, the share of scientific and technical staff is on the 
increase (these include technicians and laboratory assistants). 

Growth in the number of various types of white-collar workers 
in the services sector is also linked to a considerable degree—albeit 
indirectly—with the demands of production, with the development 
•of productive forces. Modern production requires the priority growth 
rate of science and technology. Systems of general, vocational, and 
higher education are assuming ever greater significance to provide 
training for the work force that satisfies modern demands. Main¬ 
taining the work force which is subject to rapid exhaustion in cap¬ 
italist production in its proper condition demands extension of the 
health-care system and allied services. These and other sectors in 
which white-collar workers predominate are growing, albeit some 
more quickly than others. 

The increasingly complex system of capitalist reproduction re¬ 
quires that various types of financial and commercial establishments 
and advertising services be extended and developed. The rapid rise 
of employment—mainly of white-collar workers—in these branches 
of the economy in part reflects the actual needs of production and 
its regulation in the age of the scientific and technological revolu¬ 
tion, and in part the irrational and parasitic nature of capitalist de¬ 
velopment. The enormous growth in the information and ideology 
sphere (television, radio, the press, etc.) also has two-sided impli¬ 
cations. 

The development of SMC and the extension of the military-po¬ 
lice. economic, social, and other functions of the bourgeois state lead 











SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


193 


a proliferation of associated establishments, and the number of 
non-manual workers employed in them grows accordingly. 

Two conclusions can be drawn from the above: first, the increase 
• n t} ie number of white-collar workers results chiefly from the ob- 
iective process of development and improvement in social produc¬ 
tion: second, the absolute increase in the number of white-collar 
workers is to be observed both in material production (in indus¬ 
try), and in other spheres of social activity. 

Within the overall total of white-collar workers in a number of 
countries, there has been a certain amount of increase in the share 
of those employed in industry as opposed to that of white-collar 

workers, employed in the services sector. 1 As a result the growth 

in the number of white-collar workers has been accompanied by a 
certain levelling out in the degree to which these two major spheres 
of the economy are filled with white-collar workers. An analysis of 

statistics for many years shows that the growth in the number of 

white-collar workers has been proceeding mainly thanks to increases 
in the low-ranking and middle-ranking categories, i.e. those white- 
collar workers who for all intents and purposes are part of the work¬ 
ing class or bordering on the same. The vast mass of white-collar 
workers: clerical staff, typists, clerks and other office workers; vari¬ 
ous kinds of technicians, paramedics, low-ranking teachers and 
child care personnel without higher education and other middle¬ 
ranking personnel, cashiers, shop assistants, and other staff from 
the retail sector. 2 These groups of ordinary white-collar workers 
accounted for approximately three-quarters of this whole category 
of employees in the 50s, 60s and 70s. 

In the post-war period, the advanced capitalist countries have 
seen the rapid growth in the number of ordinary office workers, 
the consequent changes in all or almost all aspects of their socio¬ 
economic position, as well as their gradual turning into one of the 
main detachments of the exploited working people. Another factor 
which influences the position of ordinary office workers is the at¬ 
tempt by the bourgeoisie to use them as a source of mass-scale so¬ 
cial support both within enterprises and within society as a whole. 
For this reason the capitalists retain certain privileges for white- 
collar workers which prevent the latter from appreciating their po¬ 
sition that is similar to that of the workers. The attitude of the 


1 The percentage of white-collar workers in industry was as follows: 
31.4 in 1950 and 37.9 in 1970 in West Germany; 33.9 in 1951 and 37.2 in 1961 
in Britain; 23.7 in 1963 and 24.8 in 1976 in Italy. 

2 In the last decade as a result of the growth of self-service and other 
innovations in the retail sphere the number of hired retail personnel has 
ceased to grow in relation to the work force as a whole and in some coun¬ 
tries has ceased to grow altogether. 


13-0515 





194 


CHAPTER 4 



bourgeoisie to white-collar workers is contradictory: the bourgeois 
sie both steps up their exploitation and retains their “special sta¬ 
tus”. In general, in the era of the scientific and technological revo¬ 
lution the predominant trend is towards increased exploitation of 
white-collar workers, although its impact varies from one country 
to another, from one period to another and in relation to different 
contingents of the white-collar workers. 

This trend is to a large degree shaped by the transformation of 
the white-collar workers into a mass category of hired workers not 
only on a national scale but also within specific branches of indus¬ 
try and in larger industrial enterprises and the services sector. In 
these conditions only a very small number of capitalists can allow 
themselves to pay white-collar workers wages higher than those dic¬ 
tated by the labour market, in order to sustain the “loyalty” of 
their staff. The pattern of expenses in establishments, where white- 
collar employees’ wages constitute the main outgoing, prompts 
capitalists to seek ways of economising precisely in this sphere. 
The aims of capitalist production and its effectiveness can only 
be attained if there is “full” exploitation of the whole labour 
force, i.e. not only of workers but of the hulk of white-collar 
employees as well. Viewed in its historical perspective this will 
lead to offensives by the bourgeoisie and the capitalist state 1 
on the living standards enjoyed by the majority of all emplo¬ 
yees. 

The spread of education is the objective prerequisite for the un¬ 
dermining of the privileged position of the lowest stratum of white- 
collar employees. Literacy, the basis for the skills of many clerks 
and closely associated groups and the higher value of their labour 
compared to that of industrial workers’ labour, ceased to be the 
monopoly of a relatively narrow circle of men and women from the 
petty bourgeoisie and higher social strata, once primary and second¬ 
ary education became well-established. 

The labour required of the run-of-the-mill white-collar employees 
changed. More and more of them came to be concentrated in large 
offices, design bureaus, laboratories, medical establishments, etc. 
Enormous establishments and their sections appeared on the scene, 
which assembled hundreds and sometimes thousands of white-collar 
employees engaged in monotonous work—clerks, technicians, sales 


1 V. I. Lenin at the dawn of our century wrote about the intensification 
of exploitation by the “treasury” (i.e. by the state) of the “proletariat of 
officialdom” consisting of petty civil servants (see: V. I. Lenin, Collected 
Works, Vol. 6, pp. 92-93). At the present stage the bourgeois state by various 
means takes care that exploitation should be intensified not merely in rela¬ 
tion to its own employees in the civil service but also to white-collar workers 
in private capitalist enterprises. 













































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLaSS 


195 


a5S istants, sometimes laboratory assistants, nurses, and so on . 1 How¬ 
ever, the general level of concentration of blue-collar workers still 

remained higher. 

The growth in the number and concentration of white-collar staff 
provided the prerequisite for the application of industrial methods 
of organisation and exploitation of their labour, methods which had 
already been tested in workshops. Capitalists seek by all possible 
means to rationalise the labour of white-collar staff, to raise its pro¬ 
ductivity and thus to exploit it more fully. In the post-war years 
various methods for the precise calculation and reduction of the 
time expended by each white-collar employee on this or that indi¬ 
vidual procedure were elaborated and applied on quite a wide scale. 
In the United States, things even went as far as the “conveyor-belt 
processing” of documents. Attempts were made to record down to 
the last fraction of a second the time spent not merely on individ¬ 
ual movements but also on mental operations. Yet when all is said 
and done, there are still substantial differences between the labour 
of the majority of blue-collar workers and white-collar workers. 

At the turn of the century the blue- and white-collar workers dif¬ 
fered substantially because the latter enjoyed the job security, while 
the former knew no job security whatsoever. In the 19th and 
early 20 th century when unemployment for blue-collar workers was 
the “norm”, white-collar workers were not exposed to anything 
like mass unemployment. They suffered from unemployment for the 
first time during the crisis of 1929-1933. The growth of unemploy¬ 
ment in the late 60s and 70s affected blue- and white-collar work¬ 
ers to more or less the same extent. In the United States, in the 
early 70s unemployment levels for office and sales workers were 
even higher than those for skilled workers. 

There has also been a considerable change in the comparative 
wage levels for ordinary office workers and industrial workers. 
While in the 19th and early 20th century the vast mass of white- 
collar workers were paid far more than blue-collar workers, later 
the gap between the two levels of pay became far smaller. In the 
70s wages paid to clerical and sales workers, and many middle¬ 
ranking specialists differed very little from average wages paid to 
industrial workers. 2 * * 5 

It should be pointed out, however, that the wages similar to those 


1 The British Marxist sociologist F. D. Klingender wrote that “the amal¬ 

gamation process created the monster office in which vast numbers of clerks 

are herded together... ” (F. D. Klingender, The Condition of Clerical Labour 

in Britain, London, 1935, p. 61). 

5 This conclusion is only an approximation. The situation varies con¬ 
siderably from one country to another: as a rule, in countries that are more 
economically developed, white-collar workers’ wages are relatively lower. 

13* 






196 


CHAPTER 4 


earned by industrial workers, paid out to office staff were, as a 
rule, earned after fewer hours. The standard working week (fixedI 
after collective bargaining, by law or by the individual entrepr c , 
neur) for white-collar workers, even those of the lowest grade, was 
usually shorter than that for blue-collar workers. It is rare for those 
among the majority of office workers to work overtime. In the 
60s and 70s, however, the working week for workers in industrv 
began to be cut down far more rapidly than that for office workers. 
The same thing applies to the extension of paid summer holidays 
for industrial workers which also has served to close the gap (this 
is true in particular of France). 

Differentials with regard to pensions and sickness benefits and 
other material privileges became smaller than before, although white- 
collar workers still benefited more from such arrangements than 
blue-collar workers. 

Nowadays there are only few differences to be observed in the 
position of blue- and white-collar workers respectively at their place 
of employment—disciplinary regulations are stricter for blue-collar 
workers (the requirement that they should clock in and clock out, 
etc.), and the existence of certain privileges for white-collar work¬ 
ers (the opportunity to be absent from work in connection with cer¬ 
tain family circumstances, for example) and then the purely sym¬ 
bolic considerations of “status”,, reflected in such things as separate 
entrances and parking spaces, etc. 

Broadly speaking, the lower and even the middle ranks of white- 
collar workers are losing their former privileged position and are 
turning into nothing more than small cogs in the machine of capi¬ 
talist material and non-material production, faceless ciphers in the 
labour force exploited by capital. 

This closing of the gap between industrial and office workers 
stems, of course, not only from socio-economic factors. Marxists re¬ 
gard class not merely as a purely objective category, but also, to 
use Lenin’s words, as “a concept which is evolved in struggle and 
development”. 1 From this point of view it is also vital to attribute 
crucial importance to changes in the social behaviour of ordinary 
white-collar workers, to the growing level of their organisation and 
militant activity, and also to their increasingly broad involvement 
in the class struggle of the proletariat. 2 


1 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 30, 1977, p. 512. 

2 A more detailed analysis of the changes in the actual position of white- 
collar workers and also in their consciousness and behaviour is to be found 
in the following study: V. V. Peschansky. White-Collar Workers in Bourgeois 
Society (taking Britain as an example), Moscow, 1975 (in Russian). 







































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


197 


SEMI-PROLETARIAN AND TRANSITIONAL STRATA. 

THE WORKING CLASS AND THE INTELLIGENTSIA 

When analysing the structure and composition of the working class 
it j s essential to take into account the fact that the proletarianisa¬ 
tion of a number of social groups and strata is a process that is not 
yet complete. Many of these groups and strata are at a transitional 
stage and have not yet become an integral part of the working 
class. In this connection Lenin was to write: “Capitalism would not 
be capitalism if the proletariat sur sang were not surrounded by a 
large number of exceedingly motley types intermediate between the 
proletarian and the semi-proletarian.” 1 

The process of proletarianisation which was to be observed in the 
advanced capitalist countries in the post-war years paves the way 
for a situation in which large numbers of people are losing their 
former non-proletarian social status but at the same time have not 
fully acquired a new, proletarian status. Such people can be defined 
as semi-proletarian, a term which Lenin employed widely in his 
detailed analysis of the class structure of capitalist society. This 
term applies in particular to the numerous small-scale producers 
in town and country who, no longer able to maintain themselves on 
the income to be gleaned from their own farms or small enterprises, 
are spending the large part of their working hours as hired la¬ 
bour. 2 

In the United States, for example, there were nearly one and a 
half million farms with output amounting to less than 5,000 dol¬ 
lars. Farms of this type could be defined as proletarian or semi-pro¬ 
letarian holdings. Their owners work partly on their own holdings 
but most of their income they earn as hired labour, usually in non- 
agricultural spheres of the economy. In 1960, for example, income 
earned outside the farm constituted 69 per cent of total family earn¬ 
ings for this group, and 84 per cent by 1969. During the 60s the 
number of these farms continued to decline steadily: there were 
2,465,000 in 1960, 1,509,000 in 1969. Yet in the early 70s they still 
accounted for over half the total number of farms (55 per cent), 
and five million people lived on such farms. 3 Although for those 
farmers, who only spend part of their working hours on their own 

1 Y. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, 1977, p. 74. 

2 The difference between semi-proletarian strata and rural “proletarians 
With holdings” lies in the fact that the latter are real workers whose main 
source of income is wages, since their tiny holdings can only be regarded as 
a small supplementary source of income. For semi-proletarian strata, on the 
other hand, their own holdings or enterprises represent a source of income 
at least as considerable as what they receive in wages, if not more so. 

3 R N. Nikolitch, Family-size Farms in U.S. Agriculture, Washington, 
1972, pp. 26-27. 





198 


CHAPTER 4 


farms, their earnings from outside the farm, as a rule, provide th& 
main source of their family’s subsistence, their own holdings still 
bring in some kind of supplementary income for their family that, 
can often he of crucial significance. 

Similar processes were to become widespread also in the capital¬ 
ist town in the post-war period. In a number of cases small-scale 
producers in the towns, no longer able to live on the income from 
their own enterprises, were obliged to go out and search for addi¬ 
tional work. At the same time some blue- and white-collar workers, 
while still employed as hired labour, set up their own small busi¬ 
nesses. In one way or another in all capitalist countries many small- 
scale producers combine their own “independent” entrepreneurial 
activity with wage labour. They all constitute part of the semi-pro¬ 
letarian stratum. 

Many small-scale producers who work totally outside the system 
of hired labour and employees from the services sector should also 
be seen as part of this stratum. Independent building workers pro¬ 
vide an example of just such a group—painters, carpenters, plaster¬ 
ers, roof-tilers, electricians and sanitary engineers, etc. In a certain 
sense it is more advantageous for the large-scale entrepreneur to 
use the labour of such workmen on a sub-contractual basis than I 
to use hired labour, since many types of labour legislation and con¬ 
ditions of collective agreements, concluded between trade unions 
and building firms, do not protect the former. Owners of small pet¬ 
rol stations and small retail outlets, dependent upon large trading 
companies, find themselves in a similar situation. 

The material position of hundreds of thousands of small-scale 
independent workmen in this category can be compared with that of 
some categories of low-paid workers in industry. In the United 
States, for example, in 1974 the average income for the vast majority 
of small-scale urban producers was beneath the official poverty line. 1 

The semi-proletarian strata of the urban petty bourgeoisie are 
fairly numerous and their numbers are constantly growing partly 
as a result of the improvement of the more prosperous groups of 
small-scale property-owners, and partly as more and more peasants 
and farmers are being driven off the land who, having no vocation¬ 
al training to fall back on, attempt to set up their own small-scale 
enterprises. 

The transitional social type of the working man is also becom¬ 
ing more widespread in the ranks of intelligentsia. Since pro¬ 
fessions like teaching and engineering have spread on a mass scale, 
considerable changes have taken place in the economic and so- 


1 Calculated on the basis of figures taken from: Statistical Abstract of 
the United States, 1979, p. 563. 



































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


199 


cial position of these groups of the intelligentsia. The main trend 
to be observed among the broad mass of the working intelligentsia 
is one of increasing proletarianisation, as reflected in many aspects 
of the activity of the given social stratum. First and foremost there 
has been a marked increase in the degree to which those engaged 
in brain-work are subordinate to capital. At the beginning of the 
century many members of the intelligentsia ware still members of 
the liberal professions. In the 60s and the 70s those engaged in 
brain-work are, with rare exceptions, hired workers. As was pointed 
out earlier, a sizable section of scientific and technical specialists 
lost their administrative and managerial functions and became just 
another group carrying out various types of highly skilled labour. 

Another trend that has emerged is that towards a smaller gap 
between the average wages for certain sections of the intelligentsia 
and those of industrial workers. Thus, in Britain in the late 60s the 
teacher’s salary was close to the wage of the factory and office work¬ 
er of a middle qualification. 1 

To this we must add that the sizable sections of the intelligentsia 
have lost the former job security. In the early 70s in the United 
States, for instance, every fourth chemist was out of work: in 1972, 
ten thousand law-school graduates failed to find work, and many 
teachers were also unemployed. All in all, the level of unemploy¬ 
ment among new r graduates in 1972 came to almost 8 per cent, 
while the average figure for unemployment among the active popu¬ 
lation was 5.6 per cent. 2 

This proletarianisation of the intelligentsia which means that the 
overwhelming majority of this social group is drawn into the sys¬ 
tem of antagonistic production relations, serves to extend and inten¬ 
sify the social and class contradictions within capitalist society. 

Since the mid-70s, as the result of the economic crisis and the 
growth of chronic unemployment in a number of capitalist countries, 
a rapid increase came about in the stratum of people deprived of 
any secure or permanent place in social production and in the so¬ 
cial structure. Unemployed young people, including recent school- 
leavers and graduates, were particularly widely represented in this 
stratum. Living on casual earnings or unemployment benefits the 
people within this stratum of society are coming to resemble de¬ 
classed elements of society. A considerable proportion of them, 
particularly unemployed workers, retain firm links with the work¬ 
ing class and the labour movement, but many have no such links 
and show inclinations towards anti-social behaviour and anarchic 
rebellion, and in some cases they prove receptive to the demagogy 

1 The British Journal of Sociology, Vol, XXIV, No. 1, March 1973, p. 47. 
Later, however, teachers’ salaries were raised to a significant degree. 

2 Business Week, September 23, 1972, p. 48. 





200 


CHAPTER 4 


of ultra-left or fascist groups. The proportion of such declassed ele, 
ments is particularly great amongst ethnic minorities subjected to 
social discrimination (such as the Blacks in the United States) i n 
backward “crisis” areas such as the South of Italy. 

* * * 

Between 1950 and 1980 the working class of the capitalist coun¬ 
tries developed as a complex social entity incorporating exploited 
manual and non-manual workers and certain groups of those engaged 
in brain-work in all spheres of the economy, a community of 
men and women surrounded by large numbers of transitional but 
stable groups at various stages of proletarianisation. The most im¬ 
portant features of the working class in the age of the scientific 
and technological revolution are, first, its improved cultural and 
educational level, and the increasingly intellectual demands of the 
work it is called upon to carry out; second, its more complex in¬ 
ternal structure; third, the broadening of its social ties with non- 
proletarian and semi-proletarian strata and its growing capacity for 
expressing the needs and interests of the broad masses of the work¬ 
ing people. 

The working class in the capitalist countries is a powerful and 
growing detachment of the international proletariat, whose ranks 
at the end of the 70s numbered between 220 and 240 million. In 
the major capitalist countries the working class numbered approx¬ 
imately as follows: 72 million in the United States: 36 million in 
Japan; 20 million in Britain; 19 million in the Federal Republic 
of Germany; 15 million in France; 13 million in Italy. 1 

The national detachments of the proletariat possess specific fea¬ 
tures stemming from the special nature of the political, economic 
and social development of the countries in question. A structural 
feature of the US working class, for example, was the high propor¬ 
tion of men and women employed in the services sector. In many 
other countries, the proportion of workers from this sector is near¬ 
ing the US level. 

As early as the end of the 19th century there was a particularly 
low proportion of agricultural labourers in the ranks of the British 
working class. In the post-war period there has been a rapid drop 
in this proportion in almost all developed capitalist countries (ex¬ 
cept Italy). 

1 These figures are based on estimates drawn up by the Institute of Inter¬ 
national Labour Movement, USSR Academy of Sciences (see: The Working 
Class in the Social Structure of the Industrially Developed Countries, p. 311; 
A. A. Galkin, “On the Question of the Working Class’ Allies in Western 
Europe”, Vestnik Akademii Nauk SSSR, No. 3, 1980, p. 74). 














































SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS 


201 


Similar levelling processes can be observed in the distribution of 
the industrial proletariat from one branch of industry to another in 
different countries, in levels of skills and in the partial closing of 
the gap between wage levels for the workers of different capitalist 
countries (Japan, for example, used to lag far behind the “older” 
capitalist countries as recently as the 50s, but since then the gap 
has been reduced several times over). 

The above facts point to a levelling in the structure of the work¬ 
ing class and in the position of the national detachments of the 
working class within the capitalist world (although considerable na¬ 
tional differences are, undoubtedly, still retained). The mass migra¬ 
tion of workers in the capitalist world, in particular in Western 
Europe, has also contributed to this levelling process. All this pro¬ 
vides greater possibilities for the coming together of the working 
people from different countries in a joint struggle against interna¬ 
tional capital. 

There is a growing awareness of common interests among groups 
within the working class despite their involvement in different types 
of work, different levels of skills and their belonging to differ¬ 
ent branches of industry. This is borne out by the figures pointing 
to social mobility within one and the same generation, as well as 
from one generation to another in the main capitalist countries. 1 
These figures reveal, first, the high degree of the self-recruitment 
and self-reproduction of the working class, particularly of its main 
nucleus made up of industrial workers. They also reveal a decline 
in the role of the agricultural population as a means of replenish¬ 
ing the working class as the numbers of those employed in agri¬ 
culture drop. Lastly, there is increased mobility to be observed be¬ 
tween the various groups within the working class. It is important 
to note the considerable increase in social ties between the various 
groups of white-collar and blue-collar workers, particularly those of 
the skilled variety. This reflects the merging together of the two- 
main contingents of the modern working class—those of the indus¬ 
trial workers and the proletarian majority of the office workers. 2 


'■ Social mobility in the capitalist countries and the reproduction of the 
working class have been investigated for the first time in a Soviet book— 
Specific Features of the Reproduction of the Working Class in the Advanced 
Capitalist Countries, Moscow, 1978 (in Russian). 

2 At the same time it has been established by researchers that, as a rule, 
rank-and-file white-collar workers have a better chance of career (“upward 
mobility’’) than blue-collar workers, and that the ranks of the former are 
more likely to be swelled by men and women from the middle strata of 
society (see: A. M. Salmin, I. N. Faleyeva, “Social Dynamics and the Re¬ 
production of the Working Class in the Advanced Capitalist Countries” in 
the collection of articles entitled: The Working Class in the World Revolu¬ 
tionary Process, Moscow, 1980, p. 200, in Russian). 







202 


CHAPTER 4 


Changes in the composition of the working class inevitably maks 
it appear more complex both from the social and the ideological- 
psychological points of view. Differences in living and working con¬ 
ditions, different experiences, the differing origins and traditions of 
various groups within the working class give rise to a wide range 
of differences in levels of awareness of class interests and in the de¬ 
mands put forward in the course of the day-to-day class struggle. 

The revisionists of today, as they overemphasise these differen¬ 
ces, try to deny the objective social unity of the proletariat by op¬ 
posing the so-called “new working class” (consisting of highly 
skilled workers, engineers and scientific personnel) to the “old” one 1 
nnd by maintaining that the working class has been split for once 
and for all into a number of separate “classes”. In actual fact the 
dominant trend in these structural changes finds expression in the 
closing of the gap between the social positions and interests of ex¬ 
ploited manual and non-manual workers. This serves to broaden 
the social basis of the labour movement and provides new precon¬ 
ditions for the militant unity of the various detachments of the 
working people. 


1 Mallet, La Nouvelle classe ouvri&re, Paris, 1963. 

































Chapter 5 

THE ECONOMIC POSITION 
OF THE WORKING CLASS 


In the post-war period the position of the working class has been 
determined first ancl foremost by the social consequences of the de¬ 
velopment of the capitalist economy. As mentioned earlier, these 
consequences have taken the form of accelerated growth and major 
structural changes in the productive forces in the course of the 
scientific and technological revolution, of further concentration, mon¬ 
opolisation and internationalisation of production, and of increased 
intervention by the bourgeois state in the economic life of so¬ 
ciety and in the relations between labour and capital. Each of these 
phenomena have exerted a specific influence on the material and 
social position of working people, and on their struggle against the 
ruling class. 

Various combinations of the above factors of social development 
in the different capitalist countries meant that during the post-war 
years specific socio-economic and political conditions of the struggle 
of the working class varied considerably. In the late 40s and ear¬ 
ly 50s the effects of the Second World War still made themselves 
felt and these varied considerably from state to state and from peo¬ 
ple to people: in some of the advanced capitalist countries the econ¬ 
omy had not only not suffered any serious damage but in some 
respects had been even consolidated, while in others—the vast ma¬ 
jority of the countries of Western Europe and Japan—production ca¬ 
pacity and the housing stock had been depleted, often severely. 
While in some of these countries ail that was required was for fac¬ 
tories to be readapted to peace-time production and for the work 
force to be demobilised, in others it was of a question of restoring the 
nation’s economy. 

The scientific and technological revolution together with meas¬ 
ures of state-monopolistic regulation made possible the accelerated 
economic development in the capitalist countries in the 50s and 60s. 
Rates of growth in industrial production were, on the whole, higher 





204 


CHAPTER 5 


than they had been before the war. However, this development was. 
by no means even: in the United States, for example, where pro¬ 
cesses of industrialisation had been completed before the war, lower 
rates of economic growth were to be observed than those in Japan 
and in most countries of Western Europe. Yet in the sphere of tech¬ 
nological progress the United States had far outstripped the other 
capitalist countries. 

In the 60s and 70s, substantial structural changes took place in 
the economy of these countries, stemming from the further advance 
of the scientific and technological revolution. Economic growth 
went hand in hand with disproportions reflected in the development 
of particular branches of industry and regions, and in the economic 
and social position of the respective groups of the working people. 
The ruthless plunder of natural resources greatly exacerbated eco¬ 
logical problems. Furthermore, in the second half of the 60s, infla¬ 
tionary price rises accelerated and the monetary and financial cri¬ 
sis became more acute. At the beginning of the 70s, for the first 
time in the history of capitalism, an energy crisis occurred. This 
gradual accumulation of negative phenomena in the development of 
the capitalist economy led up to what was to be the most profound 
economic crisis in the post-war period, which broke in the mid-70s. 
It affected the whole of the capitalist world and came hand in 
hand with inflationary price rises, which were unusual for that par¬ 
ticular phase of the economic cycle. The exacerbation of the contra¬ 
dictions in the capitalist economy in the 70s caused a profound cri¬ 
sis in the well-established system of state-monopolistic regulation of 
the economy. All these developments were to have an extremely neg¬ 
ative effect upon the position of the working people. 

UNEMPLOYMENT 

Despite the relatively high rates of economic growth during most 
of the post-war period and the introduction in a number of capital¬ 
ist countries of government, measures to maintain employment, lev¬ 
els, unemployment remained the lot of millions of working people. 
Some new factors made the problem even more acute than before. 
In addition to the cyclical fluctuations in the course of capitalist re¬ 
production, the consequences of the population explosion of the early 
post-war years had an increasing effect upon the unemployment 
curve ever since the mid-60s as indeed had the accelerated scientif¬ 
ic and technical progress and the growing structural contradictions 
and disproportions on the labour market. 

As can be seen from Table 4, there are significant differences in 
the scale and dynamics of unemployment from one country and one 
period to another. In the early post-war years, in a number of West 


















































economic position of the working class 


205 


European countries (West Germany, Italy, etc.), whose economies 
had suffered particularly badly during the war, the level of unem¬ 
ployment was higher than in the United States, whereas in the 50s, 
^Os and 70s unemployment levels in the United States often exceed¬ 
ed those in other capitalist countries. While during most of the 50s 
and the early 60s unemployment began to climb down in many 
countries, after the end of the 60s it began to rise everywhere. This 
meant that in the 50s and 60s the situation on the labour mar¬ 
ket which had taken shape on the basis of the supply and demand 
for labour had, on the whole, been relatively favourable for the work¬ 
ing class in the majority of capitalist countries. Rates of growth 
in the able-bodied population had been moderate, while accelerated 
economic growth had kept the demand for labour at a sufficiently 
high level. A number of countries (such as West Germany, France 
and Japan) experienced a labour shortage and many of them dealt 
with this shortage by encouraging the immigration of foreign work¬ 
ers. 

Table 4 


Changing Levels of Unemployment in Major Capitalist Countries* 



USA 

Japan 

frg 

France 

Britain 

Italy 


000 

% 

000 

% 

000 

% 

000 

% 

000 

% 

000 

% 

1950 

3,350 

5.3 

440 

1.2 

1,580 

10.2 

153 

0.8 

332 

1.6 

1,615 

8.3 

1955 

2,904 

4.4 

680 

1.6 

928 

5.1 

160 

0.8 

244 

1.1 

1,913 

9.8 

1960 

3,931 

5.6 

500 

1.1 

237 

1.2 

131 

0.7 

377 

1.6 

836 

4.2 

1965 

3,366 

4.5 

390 

0.8 

147 

0.6 

142 

,0.7 

347 

1.5 

721 

3.6 

1970 

4,088 

4.9 

590 

1.2 

149 

0.7 

262 

1.3 

612 

2.6 

609 

3.2 

1971 

4,993 

5.9 

640 

1.2 

185 

0.8 

338 

1.7 

792 

3.5 

609 

3.2 

1972 

4,840 

5.6 

730 

1.4 

246 

1.1 

384 

1.9 

876 

3.8 

697 

3.7 

1973 

4,304 

4.9 

680 

1.3 

274 

1.2 

394 

1.9 

619 

2.7 

668 

3.5 

1974 

5,076 

5.6 

730 

1.4 

583 

2.6 

498 

2.4 

615 

2.6 

560 

2.9 

1975 

7,830 

8.5 

1,000 

1.9 

1,074 

4.7 

840 

4.1 

978 

4.1 

654 

3.3 

1976 

7,288 

7.7 

1,080 

2.0 

1,060 

4.6 

933 

4.5 

1,359 

5.7 

732 

3.7 

1977 

6,855 

7.0 

1,100 

2.0 

1,030 

4.5 

1,072 

5.1 

1,484 

6.2 

1,545 

7.2 

1978 

6,047 

6.0 

1,240 

2.2 

993 

4.3 

1,167 

5.6 

1,475 

6.1 

1,571 

7.2 

1979 

5,963 

5.8 

1,170 

2.1 

876 

3.8 

1,350 

6.4 

1,307 

5.4 

1,698 

7.7 

1980 

7,449 

7.1 

1,140 

2.0 

889 

3.8 

1,451 

6.8 

1,668 

6.8 

1,698 

7.6 


* The above figures are based on official statistics which do not fully reflect the 
scale of unemployment. 

Sources'. Year Book of Labour Statistics, 1957, Table 10‘, 1967, Table 10; 1979, 
Table 10; Main Economic Indicators, April 1981. 



















206 


CHAPTER 5 


After the late 60s the situation began to change. There was a 
sudden influx of young people to the labour markets resulting from 
the high birth rate in the first five years after the war. Company 
mergers and take-overs became more widespread and led to the clo¬ 
sure of smaller enterprises, competition within the world and homo 
markets became more intense, entrepreneurs went out of their way 
to keep down production costs by automation, tighter control and 
new technology and also by introducing modern methods for the 
capitalist rationalisation of labour: all this led to unemployment on 
an increasingly wide scale. 

While the supply of labour was growing, the spread of intensive 
methods for the development of production under the impact of the 
scientific and technological revolution under capitalism made it more 
difficult for the economy to absorb new contingents of the labour 
force. Some technically advanced branches of industry (the oil-pro¬ 
cessing, aviation, motor and steel industries) increased output, while 
cutting down on the number of blue-collar and white-collar work¬ 
ers they employed. From the mid-60s onwards the overall increase 
in the number of jobs was modest, to say the least, in the majority 
of the advanced capitalist countries. The general level of employ¬ 
ment in 1978 in comparison to 1970 was 107.8 per cent in Italy, 
100.9 per cent in Britain, 94.3 per cent in West Germany, 102.8 
per cent in France, 106.2 per cent in Japan, and 120.0 per cent in 
the United States. 1 

In major capitalist countries unemployment reveals a number of 
distinctive features. First of all, its high level continued long beyond 
the crisis phase of production. Indicative in this respect is the 
economic crisis of 1969-1970 in the United States and still more so 
the crisis of 1974-1975. While the level of industrial production be¬ 
gan to rise from November 1970 and by April 1972 had exceeded 
the highest point reached prior to the crisis, unemployment at around 
6 per cent of the economically active population continued for an 
unusually long time—-for twenty months—and only in the middle 
of 1972 did it begin gradually to come down, but at the beginning 
of 1973 as well it was still at the 5.5 per cent mark. 

Another characteristic feature is that even during periods of rela¬ 
tively rapid growth in production the capitalist economy has proved 
incapable of making full use of available labour resources. Mass 
unemployment appears as chronic at all phases of the industrial 
cycle. 

Exacerbation of the problem of unemployment is one of the so¬ 
cio-economic consequences of the scientific and technological revol¬ 
ution under capitalism, and of the economy’s increasing instability. 


1 Calculated from: Year Book of Labour Statistics. 1979, Table 4. 









































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


207 


anc l of the significant increase in the export of capital by the multi¬ 
national monopolies, which during the 70s began to transfer part 
of their production in a number of important branches of industry 
to less advanced and even developing countries. 

Although the levels of vocational training and the skills of the 
labour force were rising, they still lagged behind the objective de¬ 
mands of the scientific and technological revolution. Class and prop¬ 
erty privileges in the capitalist system of education, the frequently 
inadequate level of general education and the narrow range of work¬ 
ers’ vocational skills, together with the lack of any really long¬ 
term planning with regard to the training of the work force, all made 
it difficult for a significant section of the work force, particularly 
its younger ranks, to adapt to the new demands of the labour mar¬ 
ket. In Britain, one team of researchers established that there were 
at least two million virtually illiterate teenagers. In West Germany, 
according to some estimates, one out of ten people can hardly read. 
In the United States, according to research findings collected in 
1970, 18.5 million Americans aged 16 and over were virtually il¬ 
literate. 1 

This means that not only does the contradiction between overall 
demand for labour and its supply become more important but also 
the disparities between the two from the structural point of view. 
As a result unemployment is found side by side with a serious 
shortage of certain types of labour (more often than not those re¬ 
quiring high-level or new skills). Part of the labour force is de¬ 
preciating and the scale of regional unemployment is growing. Be¬ 
cause of this there is growth in the numbers of the unemployed of 
long standing and also in the numbers of workers who leave the la¬ 
bour market for ever. 

Centres of high unemployment took shape in economically back¬ 
ward regions and in places where enterprises in branches of in¬ 
dustry that have lost their former economic significance are situat¬ 
ed. Regions of this kind include, for instance, Northern England, 
Scotland, Northern Ireland (in the United Kingdom), Flanders in 
Belgium, and the South of Italy. Capitalist integration serves to in¬ 
tensify this process. 

Structural changes within the working class are facilitating the 
growth in the reserve army of labour. Many trades that have become 
irrelevant to production become obsolete within the context of 
the scientific and technological revolution. 

A new phenomenon of recent decades is the growth of unemploy¬ 
ment among white-collar workers. This is one of the first results 
of the introduction of mechanisation and automation in office work. 


1 U.S. News and World Report, August 19, 1974, pp. 37, 40. 






the spread of self-service in the retail trade and of the centralis^ 
tion and automation of control under capitalism. Although the pro¬ 
portion of unemployed among white-collar workers is far smaller 
than that found among blue-collar workers, during the last 15 years 
the gap between the respective figures was clearly closing. As a re¬ 
sult, in the United States, for example, the share of white-collar 
workers among those without work rose from 20.2 per cent in I960 
to 28.6 per cent in 1979. 1 The growth in unemployment among of¬ 
fice workers—the largest section within this category—was partic¬ 
ularly great. In 1978, it reached 15.8 per cent of the total number 
•of unemployed in West Germany and 16 per cent in Britain. 

Unemployment does not affect the various groups of industrial 
workers equally. The highest unemployment levels are always to be 
found among unskilled workers. In the United States, for example, 
the percentage of unemployed among unskilled workers was more 
than twice as great as that found among skilled workers. In Brit¬ 
ain, in 1979, 36.5 per cent of the unemployed were unskilled work¬ 
ers, 9.5 per cent were skilled workers and 22.6 per cent were semi¬ 
skilled workers. 2 In France, among those seeking work in 1965 
over 69 per cent were unskilled labourers, nearly 26 per cent were 
skilled workers and 5 per cent were foremen, technicians, and so 
on. Yet in the 70s unemployment began to hit skilled workers more 
and more, and also white-collar workers and administrative and 
technical personnel. In 1978, skilled workers and office workers al¬ 
ready accounted for 48.7 per cent of the unemployed, while fore¬ 
men, administrative personnel and technicians for only 10.2 per 
cent. 3 

In the post-war period, there was a particularly sharp rise in 
unemployment among the working people in the backward regions, 
among young people and the national and ethnic minorities. In the 
USA, for example, in 1977, Blacks and ethnic minorities accounted 
for 21.6 per cent of the unemployed, while they only made up 11.7 
per cent of the active population. In many countries, the unemployed 
were becoming noticeably “younger”. A certain section of to¬ 
day’s generation of young people immediately after completing their 
secondary schooling or even university education became part of the 
army of those searching for work for a long time (sometimes even 
for good), without ever having experienced work, while others were 
thrown out of industrial production before they had time to gain 


1 Manpower Report of the President. 1975, Washington, p. 235; Employ¬ 
ment and Earnings, January 1980, p. 167. 

2 Figures drawn from; Department of Employment Gazette, November 
1979, p. 1103. 

3 Figures compiled on the basis of material in Bulletin mensuel de sta¬ 
tist! que, No. 1, January 1978, pp. 15-17. 







































economic position of the working class 


209 


experience or vocational training, which fact made it harder 
fnr them to find jobs later on. In Italy, in 1959, 33 per cent of the 
unemployed were those seeking work for the first time, and by 1975 
they had come to account for 58.2 per cent of the total. 1 At the be¬ 
ginning of the 1980, in the United States young people (those aged 
25 and under) made up 47.7 per cent of the unemployed. General¬ 
ly speaking, unemployment was more rife among young people than 
in other age groups. With every decade this trend comes more clear¬ 
ly to the fore: in the 50s 11.3 per cent of Americans aged between 
16 and 19 were unemployed, while the overall percentage embrac¬ 
ing all age groups was 4.5 per cent, in the 60s the respective fig¬ 
ures were 14.5 per cent (4.8 per cent), in the first half of the 70s 
15.8 per cent (5.4 per cent) and by the end of the 70s 17 per cent 
(over 6 per cent). 2 The provision of employment for young people 
is one of the major social and economic problems in bourgeois so¬ 
ciety, one that can flare up into social and political unrest at any 
moment. 

As women come to engage more in economic activity, so their 
share in the reserve labour force also grows. In the United States, 
women accounted for 31.9 per cent of the unemployed in 1950, 35.5 
per cent in 1960, 47.4 per cent in 1974 and 46 per cent at the be¬ 
ginning of 1979. 3 

The “last word” of capitalism is the emergence of a professional 
category of “redundant people”, unemployed with technical diplo¬ 
mas, degrees and academic records. This is a reflection of the devel¬ 
opment of new, even more acute forms of capitalist waste in the 
utilisation of productive forces. In the United States, for example, 
at the beginning of 1979, close on 347,000 graduates (i.e. 2.3 per 
cent of the total) numbered among those who had been made re¬ 
dundant. 4 In West Germany, in 1978, men and women who gradua¬ 
ted from university or completed specialised technical training at 
the secondary level made up 9 per cent of the unemployed. 5 Pos¬ 
session of a degree no longer guarantees its owner a job. Unem¬ 
ployment among graduates is now becoming a phenomenon charac¬ 
teristic of the whole capitalist world. 

1 Socio-Economic Problems Facing Working People in Capitalist 
Countries , Moscow, 1974, p. 67 (in Russian); Mondo Economico, 1979, No. 9, 
P. 39. 

2 Figures drawn from: Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1978, 
Pp. 398, 408; Economic Report of the President. 1979, Washington, p. 217; 
Employment and Earnings, March 1980, p. 32. 

3 Figures drawn from: Manpower Report of the President. 1975, p. 231; 
Employment and Earnings, March 1979, p. 36. 

4 Figures calculated using the source: Employment and Earnings, March 
1979, p. 36. 

5 IPW-Berichte, Berlin, 1979, No. 2, p. 36. 

14-0515 






210 


CHAPTER 5 


The sharp increase in the scale of unemployment in the late 6() s 
and 70s testifies to the failure of the “full employment” policy 
This policy was proclaimed aloft in the post-war years by the gov¬ 
ernments of the majority of the big capitalist countries under pres¬ 
sure from the labour movement and the example set by the socialist 
states which make it possible to fully utilise available labour 
resources at high rates of scientific and technological progress. 
Against a background of rampant inflation the “full-employment” 
policy was often sacrificed to anti-inflationary measures and turned 
into its opposite—the policy stimulating unemployment. As a re¬ 
sult state-monopolist regulation of the economy was unable to stem 
unemployment or inflation. 

Fear of the political consequences of mass unemployment impels 
the bourgeois state to introduce measures aimed at reducing this 
complex problem (public works for the unemployed, the payment 
of social security over a longer period, the introduction of more 
wide-scale systems for vocational training, etc.). Yet the narrow 
class base of the bourgeois state means that these measures can¬ 
not prove particulary effective. 

The system of unemployment insurance set up in the capitalist 
countries under working-class pressure contains serious flaws, which 
become more and more noticeable as unemployment grows. In the 
first place, by no means all those people who have lost their jobs 
have the right to unemployment benefits. In most cases they are 
only forthcoming for a limited period and only for those who have 
been employed over a fixed period before becoming unemployed 
and who were insured during a specified period. In some countries, 
unemployment insurance is not made available to some categories 
of workers (agricultural labourers, domestic servants, casual work¬ 
ers, etc.). In accordance with OECD calculations 49 per cent of the 
unemployed were not receiving cash benefits in Italy, 39 per cent 
in France and 20 per cent in Britain in the years 1974-1975. 1 

Unemployment benefits only compensate in part for lost earnings 
when working people are made redundant. In Britain, according 
to rough estimates, the unemployment benefit paid at a fixed rate 
plus various supplements come to almost half what wages would 
be. In France, most of the unemployed receive unemployment ben¬ 
efit that amounts to 2/3 of the former average wage. According 
to a law introduced in 1974, only 20-30 per cent of those who were 
dismissed for economic reasons theoretically had the right to receive 
unemployment benefit that amounted to 90 per cent of their for¬ 
mer wages (in practice though a far smaller section of the unem¬ 
ployed enjoyed this right). In West Germany, unemployment bene- 


1 OECD Economic Outlook. Occasional Studies, July 1975, p. 5. 

















































ECONOMIC POSITION OP THE WORKING CLASS 


211 


fit amounting to 68 per cent of former wages is paid to the unem- 
nloyed who worked at least six months prior to redundancy from 
funds formed from hired workers’ contributions and contributions 
from entrepreneurs. The situation regarding unemployment benefit 
is not better in the United States. In 15 states where nearly half 
those who have unemployment insurance live, maximum weekly 
payments do not amount to even half the average wage. In the re¬ 
maining states unemployment benefits come to between one half 
and two-thirds of average weekly earnings. 1 These unemployment 
benefits wrested from the capitalists by the organised working class 
in its hard struggle are quickly reduced by incessant inflation. 

The hardships that fall to the lot of the working people as a re¬ 
sult of the deepening economic contradictions of capitalism testify 
to the fact that neither state regulation of the economy nor exist¬ 
ing insurance systems are enough to protect the working class from 
unemployment and the material and moral problems that come in 
its wake. Only the struggle of the working class is able to introduce 
changes in the operation of the laws of capitalism, which condemn 
millions of people to forced unemployment, and to soften the im¬ 
pact of unemployment for the working people. 

WAGES 

The situation on the labour market that took shape in the 50s and 
lasted till the second half of the 60s proved, on the whole, favour¬ 
able for the economic struggle of the working class. Further impro¬ 
vements in the organisation of the working class were to have a 
decisive influence on changes in wage levels, as were the enhanced 
role of collective agreements in that context, and the trade unions’ 
greater capacity for overcoming the negative effect of inflation and 
growing unemployment during periods of crisis. 

The major intensification of the working class’ active role in the 
functioning and development of the whole economic set-up also made 
itself felt with regard to the value of labour power. The rapid 
growth in expenditure on the general education and vocational train¬ 
ing for working people and the rise in their levels of skill put up 
the value of labour power. A crucial factor in the rising value of 
labour power was the extending range of the worker’s family’s es¬ 
sential needs. Marx wrote in this connection: . .The number and 
extent of his so-called necessary wants, as also the modes of satis¬ 
fying them ... depend, therefore, to a great extent on the degree 
of civilisation of a country, more particularly on the conditions un¬ 
der which, and consequently on the habits and degree of comfort 


1 Manpower Report of the President . 1974, Washington, p. 46. 


31* 







212 


CHAPTER 5 


in which, the class of free labourers has been formed. In contra¬ 
distinction therefore to the case of other commodities, there enters 
into the determination of the value of labour-power a historical and 
moral element.” 1 This issue was also considered by Lenin in his 
work On the So-Called Market Question, where he wrote: “.. .The 
development of capitalism inevitably entails a rising level of re¬ 
quirements for the entire population, including the industrial pro¬ 
letariat.” 2 Objective economic processes create the material precon¬ 
ditions for “elevating needs”; the developing consciousness of the 
working class and its struggle against the intensification of capi¬ 
talist exploitation contribute to the practical fulfilment of these 
preconditions. 

The scientific and technological revolution has brought about a 
change in the structure of the working class consumption and led 
to uninterrupted growth in the range of consumer goods and ser¬ 
vices. Since the 50s consumer goods have gradually become part 
of the everyday life of the widest range of social strata, including 
the proletariat, in the advanced capitalist countries, goods that were 
previously known only to privileged social groups (electrical house¬ 
hold appliances, private vehicles, etc.); expenditure has also increased 
on children’s education, health care and fitness, etc. These new 
goods and services have become an integral component of the usual 
level of satisfaction of material needs, without which the normal 
reproduction of the labour force would not be possible. The exten¬ 
sion of the range of the worker’s family’s essential needs, increas¬ 
ing complexity of labour and increased expenditure on education 
and training of working people and the intensification of labour 
have given rise to a trend for the enhanced value of labour power, 
which provides the objective precondition for rises in real wages. 
This trend for the most part has been made possible in the course 
of the class struggle between the forces of organised labour and 
capital. All in all, during the post-war years real wages have in¬ 
creased in all advanced capitalist countries (see Table 5). 

It should be remembered that the above indices reflecting changes 
in wages are highly relative. They are based on figures drawn 
primarily from large- and medium-scale enterprises, where wages, 
as a rule, are higher than in small-scale enterprises. The indices 
for retail prices and living costs are usually out of data and do not 
fully reflect high prices, since they scale down expenditure on trans¬ 
port, housing, cultural requirements and they do not take into ac¬ 
count tax deductions or contributions for social insurance. There¬ 
fore, the indices for nominal wages make them seem higher than 


! Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, p. 168. 
2 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 1, p. 106. 









































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


213 


they really areand indices for living costs scale down rises in prices. 
Nevertheless, the figures provided in the table below make it 
possible to trace the main trends in the evolution of real wages. 

Table 5 


Real Wages and Trends in the Latter for the Periods 
1950-1960, 1960-1970 and 1970-1980*. 


Year 

USA 

Japan 

FRG 

France 

Britain 

Italy 

1950 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 1 


1955 

115.0 

134.1 

129.0 

132.6 

112.1 

103.9 

> First Period 

1960 

123.3 

168.3 

161.7 

147.8 

130.1 

118.8 „ 


1960 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 ■ 


1965 

112.4 

119.1 

135.9 

125.2 

111.9 

130.9 

^ Second Period 

1970 

115.9 

180.3 

171.4 

157.4 

124.9 

177.6 . 

I 

1970 

100.0 

100.0 

100,0 

100.0 

100.0 

100.0 1 


1971 

101.8 

108.3 

104.6 

105.1 

100.8 

106.8 


1972 

106.0 

119.8 

107.1 

111.2 

109.0 

110.3 


1973 

106.0 

130.6 

110.9 

123.7 

114.0 

122.5 


1974 

101.6 

132.9 

112.1 

129.3 

116.8 

123.4 


1975 

98.5 

135.8 

111.4 

135.7 

115.2 

135.1 

Third Period 

1976 

99.9 

140.4 

116.1 

142.3 

110.7 

139.7 


1977 

101.0 

142.5 

120.1 

147.2 

104.4 

150.4 


1978 

101.3 

147.2 

123.3 

151.8 

104.3 

156.2 


1979 

98.3 

151.8 

128.4 

157.5 

107.0 

181.6 


1980** 

97.1 

208.5 

129.4 

168.9 

113.0 

215.9 



* Calculations are based on weekly wages for the USA and FRO, on hourly rates 
of pay for Italy and France, on monthly wages for Japan and on men's weekly wages 
for Britain. 

** Figures relate to the fourth quarter of the year. 

Sources: Socio-Economic Problems facing Working People in Capitalist Countries, 
pp. 156-157; Year Book of Labour Statistics,, 197 9, Tables 17, 23; 1980, Tab¬ 
les 17, 23; Monthly Statistics of Japan , March 1980. 


Despite the existence of relatively favourable economic and social 
conditions for the struggle of the working class, the trend towards 
higher wages which was dominant in the post-war period was, as a 
rule, hard to maintain, in view of numerous factors that were work¬ 
ing powerfully against it. Fluctuations in wages were particularly 
uneven in the 70s. In the first place there was a reduction in the 
rates of growth of real wages. This was typical with regard to Ja¬ 
pan and West Germany, for example, where up until then rates of 






214 


CHAPTER 5 


growth had been relatively high. 1 Moreover, there was actually * 
drop in real wages during the 70s, in some countries at least. Ac¬ 
cording to the figures listed in the table, this was the case in the 
United States (in 1974-1975 and in 1979-1980), in West Germany 
(1975) and in Britain (1975-1978). The growing trend towards a 
decline in the working people’s living standards stemmed in large 
measure from a most unfavourable combination of negative conse¬ 
quences of the economic crisis and inflation. 

In addition, state-monopolistic regulation also exerted a major 
corrective influence on changes in nominal and real wages. This 
influence incorporated political pressure aimed at holding in check 
rises in wages and fringe benefits, the establishment of low mini¬ 
mum wages, direct “freezing” of wages, indirect influence on the 
wage structure through distortion of official indices for prices and 
living costs, the regulation of conditions for collective agreements 
and direct intervention in labour conflicts. 

One of the most conspicuous ways in which the role of the bour¬ 
geois state as a social regulator has been extended is that of the 
“incomes policy”. According to concepts put forward by bourgeois 
economists, the essence of this policy is to regulate through the 
state apparatus all types of income, so as to ensure stable econom¬ 
ic growth, stable prices, full employment and a satisfactory balance 
of payments. Thus the “incomes policy” serves to hold back the 
growth of wages and sometimes to “freeze” them. Control over prices 
and profits is far less effective and often proves no more than a sham. 

Experience in implementing the “incomes policy” has been gleaned 
in a number of capitalist countries. In Britain, the Netherlands 
and the Scandinavian countries state measures were introduced to 
regulate wages and in a number of cases this was carried out with 
the approval of trade union leaders. In other capitalist countries at¬ 
tempts (often unsuccessful) were made to win the agreement of the 
trade unions to implement the “incomes policy”, while at the same 
time the state was employing ruthless means for holding wages 
down. 

The development of SMC paved the way for active intervention 
from the state in the process of collective bargaining. This inter¬ 
vention was carried out by fixing the limits for wage increases in 
the course of collective bargaining in keeping with the “incomes 
policy”, and also through foisting on the bargaining parties condi¬ 
tions, which made wage increases dependent upon the indices of 
economic performance. Tactics of this kind were aimed at introduc- 

1 Data for France and Italy are insufficiently indicative in this respect, 
if for no other reason they are based on hourly rates of pay, which change 
less than do weekly or monthly rates of pay under the impact of an eco¬ 
nomic slump. 









































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


215 


ing a spirit of class collaboration into the work of trade unions and 
l] ie social consciousness of the working people, actively involving 
them in the process of capitalist accumulation. At the same time 
these tactics considerably reduced the opportunities for the work¬ 
ing people to achieve higher wages. In the late 60s and 70s, for 
example, the French government sought to conclude “progress con¬ 
tracts” based on similar principles in nationalised and private en¬ 
terprises and to introduce on a wide scale systems for “profit-shar¬ 
ing” for employees and also self-financing for enterprises (for exam¬ 
ple, sale of some shares among workers of the enterprise concern¬ 
ed). 

Intervention by the state into the collective-bargaining regula¬ 
tion of industrial relations signifies a substantial restriction of op¬ 
portunities for the working people to achieve concessions from the 
capitalists, starting out from the alignment of class forces in an in¬ 
dividual enterprise, branch of industry or country. State interven¬ 
tion is being used on an increasingly wide scale to change the ba¬ 
lance of power in the interests of the bourgeoisie. 

Similar goals are pursued through state legislation directed against 
strike action. In the United States, for example, the government, 
basing its actions on the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, banned strikes 
on several occasions during conflicts which arose in the course of 
negotiations on the subject of collective agreements. Considerable 
restrictions on strikes while collective agreements were being drawn 
up were introduced by the British Industrial Relations Act (in force 
during the period 1971-1974). In Sweden, a law concerning collec¬ 
tive agreements introduced in 1977 made it illegal to declare strikes 
while such agreements were in force. 

The state’s taxation policy is a prominent instrument in the arse¬ 
nal of the ruling class’ means of the suppression of attempts by 
working people to increase their income. After the last war there 
has been a considerable rise in income tax, which has to a large 
extent served to curtail the size of nominal wages. 

As emerges from the calculations drawn up by the OECD Com¬ 
mittee on Fiscal Affairs, in 1976 direct taxation and social insurance 
contributions for a married worker with two children accounted for 
18 per cent of his wages in France, 33 per cent in the FRG, 13 per 
cent in Italy and Japan, 25 per cent in the United States and 34 per 
cent in Britain. In the main capitalist countries taxes and social in¬ 
surance contributions reduced the gross wages of a married worker 
with two children by 16 per cent, those of a married worker with¬ 
out children by 22 and those of a single worker by 26 per cent. 1 

1 The TaxjBenefit Position of Selected Income Groups in OECD Member 
Countries, 1972-1976. A Report by the Committee on Fiscal Affairs, Paris, 
1978. 






216 


CHAPTER 5 


In the post-war period, indirect taxation increased particularly 
rapidly. Since it was mainly goods designed for mass consumption 
that were subject to this type of taxation and these were good s 
which occupied a significant place in the spending patterns of low- 
income families it dealt a still more serious blow to the material 
position of working people than does direct taxation. In capitalist 
countries, the working people pay the majority of the indirect taxes 
between two-thirds and three-quarters. 

Between 1950 and 1980, in West Germany, indirect taxation from 
blue-collar and white-collar workers increased nearly eight times, 
and indirect taxation collected from entrepreneurs by four and a 
half times. In 1970, the total collected as indirect taxes reduced 
gross wages by 32.9 per cent but gross revenue from companies 

and property by only 18.2 per cent, while in 1950 the correspond¬ 

ing figures had been 26.5 per cent and 20.2 per cent. 1 In Britain, 
in 1964, indirect taxation took 21 per cent of an income of £460, 
16 per cent of an income of £990 and 10 per cent of an income to¬ 
talling £2,120-£2,570. 2 

The regressive nature of indirect taxation clearly cancells out the 
superficially progressive character of direct taxes. In West Germany, 
for instance, the share of all sorts of taxes deducted from wages 
during the period 1950-1970 grew from 35.7 to 48.1 per cent, while 
taxes on the gross revenues from companies and property fell from 
37.2 per cent to 34.9 per cent. In Britain, in 1976, a family with 

an income of £46 a week (low-paid categories of workers) paid ap¬ 

proximately 17 per cent of its income in the form of direct taxation 
and 23 per cent in the form of indirect taxation (40 per cent in 
all). A family with an income of £61 a week (wages of a manual 
worker) paid out 19 and 21 per cent respectively. A family with 
an income of £88 a week (average Avages for a A\Tiite-collar worker) 
paid 21 and 18 per cent respectively. A family Avith an income of 
£127 a Aveek (the Avages of a well-paid white-collar worker) paid 
out 24 per cent in the form of direct taxation and 16 per 
cent in indirect taxation (40 per cent in all). 3 Overall taxation 
served rather to Aviden than narroAv the gap in the levels of indi¬ 
vidual incomes in the various groups. 

A similar influence on the changing scale of Avages was that ex¬ 
erted by inflation. The French Marxist economist Jean-Claude 
Delaunay Avrote: “Inflation is one of the forms of exploitation to 
Avhich the working people are subjected, one of the ways in Avhich 
the capitalists appropriate at no cost to themselves the social labour 




1 DWI-Berichte, No. 6, 1971, pp. 11, 13, 46. 

2 Comment, May 6, 1967, p. 287. 

3 Calculations based on figures from Social Trends , 1979, p. 106. 
























































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


217 


of those directly engaged in production.” 1 The uninterrupted and 
ever more rapid growth of the cost of living, as the major conse¬ 
quence of inflation, is responsible for the trend to increase prices 
more rapidly than wages, and for the deterioration in the material 
position of the working class. The combination of this trend with 
the rapid growth of the army of unemployed led to a situation in 
which the economic struggle of working people in a number of 
cases proved insufficient to avert a fall in real wages. 

Higher living costs quickly swallow up a significant amount of 
increased wages, which the working people succeed in attaining in 
the course of the class struggle. In the period 1963-1972, for exam¬ 
ple, increased retail rises “swallowed up”, according to some esti¬ 
mates, 70 per cent of the increase in nominal wages in Britain, 
68 per cent in France, 67 per cent in Italy, 60 per cent in the Unit¬ 
ed Statese and 53 per cent in Japan. Inflationary price rises contrib¬ 
ute to all-pervading social tensions in the capitalist countries. It 
is the poorest families who bear the brunt of the material hardship 
stemming from the rising prices. In many cases retail prices for 
various types of goods and services increase erratically. In some 
countries, for example, goods which become more expensive partic¬ 
ularly rapidly are those which occupy an important place in the 
budget of lowMncome families. In Britain, for example, during the 
period 1950-1972 prices for consumer goods went up by 154.4 per 
cent and food prices by 185.8 per cent and those for housing by 
218.3 per cent. In France during the period 1962-1972, prices for 
consumer goods went up by 53.7 per cent, those for food by 55.1 
per cent and for housing by 64.1 per cent. In Italy, during the pe¬ 
riod 1953-1972, the prices of consumer goods went up by 82.2 per 
cent and those for housing by 294.4 per cent. 

Taking away or reducing in value a large part of the incomes of 
working people as they do, taxation and price rises constitute an 
important instrument for supplementary exploitation of these people 
outside the sphere of production. That which the working class suc¬ 
ceeds in winning in collective agreements at factory level, in the 
individual firm or branch of industry, the ruling class can to a 
large degree neutralise with the help of the state’s taxation policy 
and inflationary price rises. 

All in all, as pointed out earlier, in the course of the post-war 
period real wages have risen in all advanced capitalist countries. 
This rise, however, has been neither constant nor steady: nor has 
it helped equally the various detachments of the proletariat from 
different trades or of different ethnic origin. 

The largest rise in real wages was that in the FRG, Japan and 


1 Economie et politique, November 1971, No. 208, p. 61. 




218 


CHAPTER 5 


Italy, where in the early post-war years wage levels had been verv 
low. Marx’s words are most apt in relation to the situation pertain, 
ing in these countries : '‘You must not, therefore, allow yourselves 
to be carried away by the high-sounding per cents in the rate of 
wages. You must always ask, What was the original amount ?” 1 

Despite the fact that the working class succeeded in achieving 
significant wage increases, acute forms of poverty still remained 
the lot of a big sector of the working people in the industrially 
developed capitalist countries. In the United States, the richest of 
the capitalist countries, the incomes of 25 million people (i.e. 11.8 
per cent of the population) were below the poverty line in 1976. 2 

Many detachments of the working people were, and still are, 
subjected to blatant discrimination with regard to wages and working 
conditions. This applies above all to women, young people, immi¬ 
grants and ethnic minorities. In the United States, for example, 
women’s wages in 1978 amounted on average to 61 per cent of 
men’s wages, including 72 per cent of wages of specialists, 59 per 
cent of wages of administrative personnel, 58 per cent of wages of 
skilled machine-operators. 3 Even the Council of Economic Advisers 
for the President of the United States was obliged to admit that the 
difference in these two sets of wages was the result not merely of 
educational differences, experience and length of service, levels of 
responsibility, etc., but also the result of discrimination on the 
part of employers. 4 

Women in other capitalist countries as well received far lower 
wages than men as late as the early 70s: in Britain their wages 
were lower by 41 per cent, in Belgium by 32 per cent, in Italy by 
25 per cent, in France by 23 per cent and in West Germany by 
30 per cent. 5 Women’s wages in the manufacturing industry in 
Japan, according to figures for January 1979, had not even reached 
half those of the men in the same industry. 6 

Wage trends and levels vary from one branch of industry to 
another, from one category of workers to another, between regions 
and factories. These differences stem both from the primary level 
of earnings, the stage of scientific and technological progress that 
has been achieved, the level of concentration of production and also 
the level of organisation and militant activity of the working class. 
It was those groups within the working class who had steady jobs 
and possessed skills required by modern production, who 

1 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, 
Volume Two, p. 338. 

2 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1977, p. 453. 

3 Monthly Labor Review, August 1979, p. 36. 

4 Economic Report of the President, 1973, Washington, pp. 106-107. 

5 World Marxist Review, No. 5, 1974, p. 43. 

6 Rodo tokei chyosa geppo, No. 3, 1979, p. 44. 




















































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


219 


vver e united in strong trade unions, and who achieved a more or 
] ess tolerable standard of living. 

The main groups within the working class earned wages on a 
scale which could not in any way be regarded as sufficient to satisfy 
their growing needs. This is borne out by the disparity between 
their wages and the standard budget (subsistence wage), allowing 
for no more than the minimum norms for consumer goods and 
services. In the United States, in 1978, wages for male workers 
remained at 20.4 per cent lower than the most modest standard 
budget drawn up by the Department of Labor (for skilled workers 
the equivalent figure was 20.4 per cent, for semi-skilled 34.1 per 
cent and for non-skilled workers 46.1 per cent) and that of male 
white-collar workers was 28.8 per cent lower. Only wages of spe¬ 
cialists and managerial staff exceeded the standard budget. 1 In 
France, a third of the 15 million wage and salary workers earned 
less than 1,000 francs monthly, i.e. less than the minimum which, 
according to the trade union organisations, was essential for a 
single person to have a tolerable life.' 2 In West Germany, in 1973, 
more than 75 per cent of blue-collar and white-collar workers earned 
less than a thousand marks a month, while the average family 
of four people (according to 1972 figures) needed to spend 1,312 
marks. 3 

Despite a certain amount of wage increases the gap between the 
incomes of the bourgeoisie and those of the working class continued 
to widen. Researchers Lester C. Thurow and Robert Lucas conclud¬ 
ed on the basis of post-war data relating to the material position 
of American families that in absolute terms the inequality in the 
distribution of incomes was becoming more acute. In 1947, the 
average income of the richest 20 per cent of families was 10,500 
dollars higher than the income of the poorest 20 per cent of fami¬ 
lies; in 1969, this difference had grown to 19,000 dollars. Over the 
same period the gap in the incomes of the 5 per cent of poorest 
and richest families had grown from 17,000 to 27,600 dollars. 4 
. .Poverty grows, not in the physical but in the social sense, 
be., in the sense of the disparity between the increasing level of 
consumption by the bourgeoisie and consumption by society as a 
whole, and the level of the living standards of the working peo¬ 
ple.” 5 These words of Lenin’s written as long ago as the beginning 


1 Figures calculated from: Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1979, 
p. 419; Monthly Labor Review, No. 9, 1979, p. 36. 

2 World Marxist Review, 1972, No. 8, p. 28. 

3 Unsere Zeit, October 5, 1973; Handelsblatt, June 5, 1973. 

4 L. C. Thurow and R. Lucas, The American Distributoin of Income. A 
Structural Problem, Washington, 1972, p. 7. 

5 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, 1972, p. 201. 



220 


CHAPTER 5 


of the century are as relevant as ever today. While a trend towards 
an absolute deterioration in the position of the working people i n 
the post-war years has for the most part been held in check (par, 
ticularly during periods of a favourable economic situation) after 
tense class battles, the relative deterioration of their position has 
come particularly clearly to the fore in the relation between the 
rates at which wages increase, on the one hand, and the growth 
of the profit margin for the monopoly capitalists, on the other hand. 
In West Germany, for example, pure profit from 100 major com¬ 
panies (after tax) during the period 1966-1973 rose by 118 
per cent, while wages for industrial and office workers (after tax 
and social insurance contributions) grew by only 71 per cent, al¬ 
though over the same period the number of those in employment 
had increased. 1 Increased productivity resulted first and foremost 
in greater profits for the powerful capitalist. 

WORKING-CLASS CONSUMPTION PATTERNS 

Employment and wages are important indicators of changes in the 
economic position of the working class. Yet the index which gives 
the broadest picture of the economic position of the working people 
is that for the level and pattern of their consumption. 

In the post-war period, the total volume of expenditure on goods 
for personal consumption in the industrially developed capitalist 
countries grew considerably: by more than 50 per cent in the United 
States, by 75 per cent in France, by 100 per cent in Italy and almost 
200 per cent in Japan. 2 A reliable reflection of the rise in living 
standards is provided by the drop in the share of expenditure on 
food in overall expenditure patterns. In the United States, for instan¬ 
ce, expenditure on food in the early 50s accounted for 30 per cent of 
average personal expenditure on consumer goods, but by the end of 
the 60s and early 70s food only accounted for 22 per cent; in West 
Germany, over the same period there was an equivalent drop from 
42 to 25 per cent, in France from 42 to 30 per cent, in Italy from 
58 to 38.3 per cent and in Japan from 51 to 28.9 per cent (in 1978) 
and so on. 3 All in all, between 1950 and 1980, there was a marked 
improvement in the range of food products available: consumption 
of cereals and potatoes dropped (except in Italy), -while that of 
meat, eggs, milk, fruit and sugar increased. 

One of the most important features of the evolution of personal 
consumption in the developed capitalist countries was the growing 

1 IPW-Berichte, No. 12, 1974, p. 37. 

2 Socio-Economic Problems Facing Working People in Capitalist Countries, 
p. 279. 

3 Ibid., p. 283; Rodo tokei chyosa geppo, No. 3, 1979, p. 50. 







































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


221 


ise 0 f durable electrical appliances. There was a significant growth 
. t j ie number of television sets, washing machines, refrigerators, 
vacuum-cleaners, and electric polishers in private homes. Private 
nieans of transport were becoming more and more commonplace. 
There was an increase in the number of cars, motor-cycles, motor- 
scooters and bicycles. In the United States, for example, approxi¬ 
mately 84 per cent of all families had a car (1974), in Britain 
57 per cent (1978), in West Germany 82 per cent and in Japan 
55 per cent of workers’ families (1979). 1 

Rising consumption and changes in its patterns were typical fea¬ 
tures in the lives of the main bulk of the working people. The so¬ 
cial and domestic conditions of their day-to-day lives also underwent 
substantial changes. Under the impact of the scientific and techno¬ 
logical revolution large numbers of new types of goods and services 
appeared on the market, and these were gradually to become an 
integral part of the everyday life of the working class. 

Yet the proposition put forward by Marx back in 1849 possessed 
of such fundamental importance still retains its relevance in the 
present situation: “. . .Although the enjoyments of the worker have 
risen, the social satisfaction that they give has fallen in comparison 
with the increased enjoyments of the capitalist, which are inacces¬ 
sible to the worker, in comparison with the state of development 
of society in general. Our desires and pleasures spring from society; 
we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects 
which serve for their satisfaction.” 2 Average indices for consump¬ 
tion conceal the profound social differences to be observed in the 
levels and nature of that consumption. Although the range of goods 
purchased by the proletariat and that purchased by the capitalists 
coincide to some extent, there are marked differences in the quality 
and value of the goods bought by the two groups, which fact lends 
the whole process of consumption a distinctly class-based character. 

As before, the lower the level of a family’s income, the greater 
part of the family budget is spent on food, the quality of which is 
incidentally poorer: in addition, the range of food products is nar¬ 
rower than that which will be found in families with larger in¬ 
comes. According to one investigation by sampling carried out in 
Britain at the end of the 60s, in the families of company owners 
and managers expenditure on food accounted for 22.8 per cent of 
total outgoings, in the families of white-collar workers for 24.4 
per cent and in workers’ families 27.8 per cent. The corresponding 


1 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1978, p. 474; Britain. 1980. An 
Official Handbook, London, 1980. p. 14; Statistisches Jahrbuch 1980 fur die 
BRD, 1980, p. 438: Japan Economic Year Book 1980/81, Tokyo, 1980, p. 200. 

2 K. Marx and F. Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 9, Progress Publishers, 
Moscow, 1976, p. 216. 





222 


CHAPTER 5 


figures for consumer durables were 6.8 per cent, 7.6 per cent and 
6.3 per cent. 1 

Growth in consumption is uneven in character and does not by 
any means apply to the working people of different types or to the 
sales of different consumer items equally. By and large, this growth 
lagged considerably behind the workers’ needs. Whereas in the 
19th century consumer needs changed relatively little and relatively 
slowly during the lifetime of one or even several generations, in the 
second half of the 20th century, on the other hand, changes in con¬ 
sumer needs are far more rapid. 

In the post-war years, there was a certain degree of improvement 
in medical services and public hygiene and more funds were devot¬ 
ed to both of these. Between 1950 and 1970, total expenditure on 
health care (in constant prices) rose by 400 per cent in Italy, by 
260 per cent in France, 150 per cent in the United States and Swe¬ 
den, and 100 per cent in West Germany and Belgium. 2 In those 
years the share of this expenditure in the United States’ GNP grew 
from 4.6 to 7 per cent. 3 The working people began turning more 
and more frequently to the services of doctors in connection with 
chronic diseases, whereas before they had only turned to them in 
acute cases of illness or after accidents. 

However, throughout this whole period, proper and comprehensive 
medical care remained virtually out of reach for a significant sector 
of the population. This can be explained above all by the high 
prices of such care. In many countries, the cost of medical care rose 
more quickly than the prices for many other types of consumer 
goods and services. In the United States, for example, the consumer 
price index was 123.0 in 1960 (taking the 1950 figure as 100), 
131.1 in 1965, 160.3 in 1970 and 249 in 1977, while the index for 
prices in the spheres of medical care and public transport in 1977 
was 373. 4 The cost of hospitalisation rose particularly rapidly. Dur¬ 
ing the 60s, for example, the cost of a ten-day stay in a New York 
hospital almost doubled. There was an acute shortage of medical 
and paramedical personnel, and medical establishments. In the 
mid-60s there was a shortfall of about one million hospital beds. 

Under capitalism, medical care is shaped by social factors and 
considerations, the quality of care provided being selective. As a 
result the most serious illnesses are concentrated in the areas inhab¬ 
ited by the poorest sections of the population. It is revealing to 


1 Figures taken from: Family Expenditure Survey. Report for 1969, 
London, 1970, pp. 54, 56, 58, 60. 

2 Socio-Economic Problems Facing Working People in Capitalist 
Countries, p. 298. 

3 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1971, p. 62. 

4 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1977, p. 478. 
































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


223 


note that in the United States, at the end of the 60s in families 
with an income of below two thousand dollars a year, every third 
person was suffering from a chronic illness, as opposed to every 
13th in families with an annual income of over seven thousand 
dollars. 

Another acute problem facing the working people is that of hous¬ 
ing, although in the 50s and 60s new housing was going up on a 
relatively wide scale. Particularly important for the working class 
was the construction of houses belonging to local authorities that 
contained cheap flats, more or less within their means: this applied 
in particular to the working class in the countries of Western 
Europe (especially France, Italy, Britain, Belgium and others). In 
the 70s, however, there was a gradual scaling down of new hous¬ 
ing to be observed. 

A similar situation was taking shape in the United States. While 
in the 50s the number of accommodation units had grown by 26.8 
per cent, in the 60s it had risen by only 17.7 per cent. In the Eco¬ 
nomic Report of the President it was noted: “The level of new 
housing construction was relatively low in the 1960s, particularly 
in the second half of the decade, when credit conditions were gener¬ 
ally unfavourable for housing.” 1 

All in all, housing construction proceeded at an uneven rate, usu¬ 
ally failing to keep up with the growth of population and for this 
reason it could not put an end to the housing shortage. In all capi¬ 
talist countries, rents were growing rapidly and had come to account 
for between six and sixteen per cent of all expenditure on personal 
consumption. In 1970, payment for accommodation had increased in 
comparison with the 1950 figures in Britain, Sweden and Belgium by 
50 per cent, in the United States, Japan and West Germany by 
100 per cent and in Italy by more than 300 per cent. As a result 
a paradoxical situation developed—at a time when there was an 
acute housing shortage, many flats and whole houses were standing 
empty. In the United States, for example, during the 50s the share 
of vacant houses and flats in the total housing stock came to an 
average of 2.7 per cent, to 3.2 per cent in the 60s and to 5.7 per cent 
in the 70s. 2 

A considerable number of houses were falling into a dangerous 
state of disrepair and many were lacking in basic amenities. In one 
of the White Papers issued by the British conservative government 
(1971) it was stated that “millions of our ‘fellow citizens’ still face 
acute housing problems, there being nearly two million slums and 


1 Economic Report of the President. 1973, p. 22. 

2 Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1976, p. 741; Economic Report 
of the President. 1973, p. 23. 







224 


CHAPTER 5 


another two million homes without such essentials as bathrooms op 
indoor sanitation'’. 1 

Naturally, the higher a family’s income, the more amenities their 
accommodation will possess. In France, for example, in 1968 the 
proportion of families with their own bath or shower was 91.5 per 
cent among highly placed civil servants, 77.3 per cent among those 
of middle rank, 59.4 per cent among low-paid civil servants or 
white-collar workers and 47.7 per cent among workers; the corres¬ 
ponding figures for the same groups with regard to running water 
in their accommodation were 99.6, 98.6, 96.8, 92.4 per cent; lastly, 
the corresponding figures for the same groups for those who had a 
toilet within their accommodation were—91.5, 79.2, 65.1 and 52.3 
per cent. 2 

Yet in the final analysis the predominant tendency of the post-war 
period was for a rise in the personal consumption of the working 
class. It plays an increasing role in economic, scientific and techni¬ 
cal development. First and foremost, the socio-economic gains of 
the working class achieved in the course of resolute struggle made 
possible the increase in the capacity of the domestic market, which 
in its turn proved an important precondition for the acceleration of 
economic development. The changes observed above in the patterns, 
standards and volume of consumption on the part of the working 
people did a good deal to promote the extension and consolidation 
of two-way links between production and consumption. This meant 
that the class struggle of the proletariat acquired tremendous signifi¬ 
cance among the other factors which exerted a direct or indirect 
influence upon modern capitalist reproduction and upon its cyclical 
development. 

In conditions where the overwhelming majority—on average over 
80 per cent—of the active population in the industrially developed 
capitalist countries began to consist of hired workers, wages form 
the main part of the population’s personal income. In 1977, for 
example, in Britain wages constituted 72 per cent of total family 
incomes. 3 In the United States, in the population’s personal in¬ 
comes “income from hired labour” came to 70.7 per cent as opposed 
to 66.1 per cent in 1950, and 63.9 per cent in 1939. 4 For this rea¬ 
son personal consumption and at the same time the capacity of the 
home market for consumer goods and services became bound up 
with the level of the hired workers’ purchasing power. 

The working class was and remains the main productive force of 


1 Management Today, January 1972, pp. 77-78. 

2 Economie et statistique, No. 13, 1970, p. 62. 

3 Social Trends, 1979, p. 160. 

4 Calculated on the basis of figures from: Economic Report of the Pre¬ 
sident. 1973, p. 214; Statistical Abstract of the United States. 1979, p. 443. 





































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


225 


society, the main producer of material values. The growth of wages 
and thus the personal consumption of the working people, and the 
expansion of the home market also provide the essential condition 
{or economic growth and the implementation of the achievements 
of the scientific and technological revolution. The working class has 
turned into the main consumer of mass-produced consumer goods. 

Yet despite increases in wages and consumption, the material 
living and working conditions of the working class continue to be 
unreliable and insecure and to a large extent to be dependent on 
haphazard economic processes over which the working people have 
no control, and also on the arbitrary behaviour of the capitalists. 
The objective need to increase consumption by the working people, 
increase wages and social allowances is checked by the lack of stable 
employment, by unemployment, and state-monopolistic income 
policies. Increased taxation and spiralling inflation have a decidedly 
negative effect upon the patterns, volume and structure of consump¬ 
tion. It is precisely this increased taxation and inflation that main¬ 
tain and exacerbate the contradiction inherent in the capitalist mode 
of production—that between the need to expand it and the endeav¬ 
our on the part of the entrepreneurs to hold back wages at a level 
quite incompatible with the growing needs whose satisfaction serves 
to reproduce labour power. In other words, the contradiction between 
the economic aims of capitalist production—the maximisation of 
profits—and the objective interests of society’s development, which 
find expression in the need ever more fully to satisfy the material 
and cultural needs of the working people, becomes progressively 
acute. 

The gulf between the growing importance of the working class 
as producer and consumer and the social conditions of his existence 
is maintained and widens. This fact is even acknowledged by cer¬ 
tain bourgeois writers. The American sociologist Michael Harring¬ 
ton, for example, points out that although ever since Marx’s time 
workers’ wages have been increasing, measures are adopted to 
smooth over the vicissitudes of economic cycles and insurance 
against unemployment is available, certain traits of the life of the “old” 
working class still exist: the worker still enjoys few rights, his role 
in the labour process is still a faceless one and he is more likely 
to be made redundant than members of other social groups. 1 Har¬ 
rington criticises the theory regarding the “embourgeoisement” of 
the working class: “In the United States as in England the worker 
is not an integrated participant in affluence—but a member of a 
quite distinct stratum. And this stratum, for the most part, is nei- 

1 M, Harrington, “Old Working Class, New Working Class” in Dissent , 
Winter 1972, p. 150. 

15-051 5 





226 


CHAPTER 5 


ther poor nor modestly well off, indeed is better off than ever be¬ 
fore—yet still quite deprived.” 1 

Not only in capitalist society as a whole but also within each i n _ 
dividual enterprise, the contradiction makes itself clearly felt be- 
tween the role of the working class in production and its lack of any 
opportunities for participating in decision-making, or coming for¬ 
ward with any initiative or creative ideas. 

The growing disparity between the role of the working class in 
the economic development of the capitalist countries and its actual 
position, when it is deprived of so many rights within the system 
of production, is one of the most powerful motives behind the class 
struggle in the era of the scientific and technological revolution. 
Awareness of this disparity has given additional stimulus to the de¬ 
cision of all these questions, in the control of the economic and 
social processes at all levels. 

METHODS OF CAPITALIST EXPLOITATION 
AND WORKING-CLASS CONDITIONS 

An analysis of the various features of the process of capitalist ex¬ 
ploitation is of crucial importance for an understanding of the re¬ 
gularities underlying the formation of the working class as a revo¬ 
lutionary force. Marxist-Leninist writers have never regarded this 
process as something unchanging or stagnant. They start out from 
the fact that the forms and methods of exploitation are modified in 
keeping with the conditions of capitalist reproduction, with the de¬ 
velopment of technology and the organisation of production and 
changes in the correlation of class forces. A particulary large num¬ 
ber of changes are to be observed in the present period when pro¬ 
ductive forces make enormous progress and the world revolutionary 
process is being deepened, when new traits appear in the develop¬ 
ment of the general crisis of capitalism. 

The scientific and technological revolution created for monopoly 
capital additional opportunities for intensifying the exploitation of 
the working class. It has accelerated the rise in labour productivity 
which in capitalist production provides a means of increasing sur¬ 
plus working time by reducing necessary working time. Modern cap¬ 
italist exploitation is coming to be based more and more on the 
use of complex labour. This enables the monopolies to derive high' 
er norms of surplus-value even when the price and value of labour 
power rises. 

In recent decades, the growth in the amount of one worker’s 
hourly output in a number of capitalist countries and branch of in- 


1 M. Harrington, “Old Working Class, New Working Class”, op. cit., p. 150. 









































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


227 


dustry has been possible largely thanks to intensification of labour. 
This phenomenon, bound up first and foremost with the accelerated 
rate of work, has been termed “rationalisation without investment”. 

The capitalists are reaping extra profits through the extension 
of working time as well. The reduction of the average working week 
that has been recorded over recent decades in the statistics of a 
number of countries has been achieved in part thanks to the in¬ 
clusion in the economically active population of a large proportion 
of women and students who do not work a full week. The length of 
the average working week for men—the largest group within the 
economically active population—is only being slightly reduced and 
sometimes even reveals a tendency to become longer. In all capital¬ 
ist countries, there is a noticeable gap between its official length 
(laid down legally or recorded in a collective agreement) and its 
actual one. Overtime work, working at holiday time or at weekends 
have become widespread practices. 

As a result in the United States where the normal working week 
is 40 hours, in 1977 industrial workers on average worked an ad¬ 
ditional 3.7 hours overtime a week. In France, the average working 
week in practice was 42.5 hours, in Britain 41.8 and in Italy 41.4. 1 

New schemes introduced in a number of advanced capitalist coun¬ 
tries for arranging working hours (“flexi-time” involving a four-day 
working week with ten hours work each day) have not brought 
about a reduction in the overall length of working hours. Yet they 
often go hand in hand with intensification of labour. 

Side by side with these more or less “traditional” methods for 
intensifying exploitation such as increasing the pace of work or 
lengthening working time, ever wide use is being made, under the 
impact of the scientific and technological revolution, of relatively 
new methods for adapting the working conditions of workers, meth¬ 
ods bound up with the automation of production. Automation has 
an ambivalent and contradictory effect upon working conditions. On 
the one hand, it cuts down to some extent the physical effect required 
of workers, the muscular exertion. Being technologically progres¬ 
sive, automated production requires more than ever good safety pre¬ 
cautions and greater cleanliness in the factory where conditions are 
more aesthetically pleasing and more account is taken of the psy¬ 
chological factors involved in the work process. Higher standards 
of production, the emotional state of the employee, his capacity 
for heightened concentration and attentiveness become important fac¬ 
tors vital to the normal running of the production process. These 
objective demands of technologial progress have to be taken into 
account in capitalist production and have had some effect upon the 
evolution of the working conditions for the workers. 

1 Labor Today, October 1978, p. 3. 


15 * 








228 


CHAPTER 5 


On the other hand, the endeavour of the monopolies to increase 
in every way possible the intensity of complex labour processes 
leads to a drastic increase in the nervous and psychological ten¬ 
sion in the working people’s labour. It is as a result of this that 
new types of work-induced ailments are becoming more and more 
widespread, including nervous, psychological and cardiovascular 
diseases, which to a large extent are the result of the working en¬ 
vironment. These and other types of work-induced diseases and ac¬ 
cidents are widespread in the spheres of the economy involving mo¬ 
notonous work, packing operations or operations that are detrimen¬ 
tal to health (where workers are exposed to above-average radiation 
or high-frequency currents and toxic substances, etc.). 1 

In many factories, above all small and medium-sized ones, old 
forms and methods of exploitation still predominate. This applies 
in particular to Japan and Italy. In Japan, for example, owners of 
factories employing up to ten people are not obliged to observe the 
normal “conditions of hire” that specify statutory working condi¬ 
tions. Usually the workers in these small-scale enterprises are not 
unionised: their wages are far lower than those paid out in me¬ 
dium-size enterprises or in particular in the large-scale enterprises. 
Yet it should not be forgotten that in Japan according to official 
statistics in 1972, over 38 per cent of all those with permanent em¬ 
ployment 2 were working in small-scale enterprises (employing be¬ 
tween 1 and 29 people) in all branches of the economy, including 
agriculture, although the majority were in the retail and services 
sector. 

In keeping with the traditional conditions of hire those who are 
working in small-size or even medium-scale enterprises do not have 
the chance to move over into a large-scale enterprise where wages 
are higher, working conditions better and there is the chance to avail 
themselves of social welfare and to raise their vocational skills. 
Those dismissed from a large-scale enterprise can only seek work 
in a small one. In today’s conditions of fierce competition those 
employed in small-scale enterprises, where technology is primitive, 
are obliged to work with maximum intensity in the environment 
where there is no official limit to working hours and where essen¬ 
tial safety requirements are not observed. As a result it means that 
the smaller the enterprises, the higher the level of work-induced ac¬ 
cidents. According to the data on medium-scale enterprises in Japan’s 
processing industries (employing between 30 and 49 people) the 
number of accidents is nine and a half times higher than in the 
giant enterprises (employing over a thousand people). 3 

1 International Labour Review, No. 4, 1978, p. 409. 

2 Figures from Rodo tokei yoran 1976, Tokyo, 1976, p. 32. 

3 Rodo tokei chyosa geppo, No. 7, 1976, p. 23. 












































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


229 


In Italy, work carried out in the home is widespread and this is 
subject to inspection neither by the state nor by the trade unions. 
Although a law was passed as far back as 1958 specifying work¬ 
ing conditions for home-based employees and extending to them 
the piece-rate systems, social benefits and pensions enjoyed else¬ 
where, these conditions were not fulfilled, since the law required of 
employers and home-based workers that they register and it was 
not in the interests of the former. There is no precise information 
available as to the number of home-based workers, but according 
to some estimates the figure is around the million mark and the 
vast majority of such employees are women. Surveys conducted in 
a number of regions of Italy have shown that in Lombardy alone 
almost 15 per cent of those employed in industry (280,000 people) 
are home-based workers. In Emilia, Tuscany, Campagna and Apu¬ 
lia, the proportion of these workers is higher still: in some parts of 
Emilia they account for up to 50 per cent of the total work force 
in industry. Home-based work is most widespread in the textile, gar¬ 
ment-making and shoe-making industries and also in the wood-pro¬ 
cessing and ceramics industries and even in mechanical engineer¬ 
ing. This work is carried out with the help of simple but fairly mod¬ 
ern machinery and the simplest operations involved in assembling 
various small machines are more often than not carried out by 
hand. 1 In addition to home-based employment of the traditional type, 
other forms have been developing in Italy, such as the setting 
up of small laboratories or subsidiary workshops affiliated to large- 
scale enterprises, in which nevertheless work is carried out either 
with simple, unsophisticated equipment or by hand. 

Home-based employment in all its forms is particularly advanta¬ 
geous for entrepreneurs, since they can make substantial “econ¬ 
omies” on payment of taxes, social insurance contributions and 
wages, which only come to between 50 and 70 per cent, on average, 
of those earned by workers in ordinary plants and factories. 2 

One or other combination of old and new forms of extracting sur¬ 
plus-value are typical even for the most modern of enterprises where, 
side by side with automated production lines, are to be found 
sections and sometimes even whole workshops with obsolete meth¬ 
ods of production, involving the most blatant forms of exploita¬ 
tion, unabashed “day-light robbery” in relation to the work force. 

In spheres where the scientific and technological revolution is 
making an impact and there have been some innovations in the or¬ 
ganisation of labour within capitalist production, this does not im¬ 
ply by any means that unhealthy working conditions have been done 


1 Rinascita, May 4, 1973, pp. 6, 7. 

2 Ibid. 






away with, the high pace of work operations has been decreased 
or inadequate safety regulations have been amended. The determi¬ 
nation of capitalists to “economise” with regard to protection of la¬ 
bour remains one of the ways in which exploitation of hired work¬ 
ers is intensified. At the same time the scientific and technological 
revolution has brought in its wake changes in the intensity of la¬ 
bour. 

Intensification of labour made possible by workers expending 
more nervous energy accelerates the undermining of the work force’s 
health, demands more substantial expenditure on restoring wor¬ 
kers’ capacity for work, than when greater muscular effort is made. 
This kind of labour intensification is typical not only for the in¬ 
dustrial proletariat, but it also affects office workers, engineering 
and technical personnel and those employed in scientific establish¬ 
ments, as a result of the vastly increased volume of information re¬ 
quiring processing. 

The intensification of labour, as pointed out earlier, constitutes 
one of the main causes of work-induced accidents. The proportion 
of those suffering from such accidents is 2.8 per cent of the work 
force in the USA, 7.1 per cent in France, 10.4 per cent in West 
Germany, 6.2 per cent in Italy and 1.7 per cent in Japan (average 
annual figures). 1 

American industry serves as an example to illustrate just how 
firmly the predatory attitude to the work force has taken root. In 
April 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act came into 
force in the wake of constant violations of safety regulations in in¬ 
dustry and numerous protests from workers. After the level of pro¬ 
tection for workers against dangerous, yet very widespread sub¬ 
stances used in production had been investigated by the Occupational 
Safety and Health Administration (in the Department of Labor), 
which included asbestos., lead, silicon, cotton dust and carbon dio¬ 
xide—it emerged that several million workers were in constant 
contact with these substances and that they were inadequately pro¬ 
tected against their harmful effects, particularly so in small-scale 
enterprises. The entrepreneurs fought the new law tooth and nail; 
some of them declared that they would need many years and mil¬ 
lions of dollars to implement the new safety norms and they drew 
attention to the required expenditure outside their means; in the 
long run only a small number of company directors took the 1970 
law seriously. 

The intensification of exploitation also comes up against increas- 

1 Figures from: The International Labour Movement, 1970, p. 144; Socio- 
Economic Problems Facing Working People in Capitalist Countries, 
















































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


231 


• n gly widespread resistance from the working people, higher levels 
0 f working-class organisation and workers 1 heightened awareness of 
their own role in production. New social conditions that have taken 
shape under the influence of the class struggle of the working peo¬ 
ple and the advance of the scientific and technological revolution 
have changed to a large extent the social and psychological image 
of the working class. The emergence of a new type of worker, 
generally more educated and highly skilled than his predecessors, 
with a broad outlook and growing needs obliges the capitalists to 
improve forms and methods of exploitation. The process of exploi¬ 
tation, particularly in immediate production, had for this reason to 
undergo certain modifications (paternalism, “human relations”, “job 
enrichment”, etc.). The increasing attempts to mask exploitation be¬ 
gan to find expression in the search for new forms of labour organ¬ 
isation designed to encourage workers 1 creative attitude to their 
work, responsibility and a certain degree of independent decision¬ 
making for the workers as one of the essential elements in the pro¬ 
duction process. In other words, entrepreneurs were faced with the 
task, alien to the spirit of capitalist production, of reducing work¬ 
ers’ “alienation” and promoting moral labour incentives. 

The scientific and technological revolution has given rise to a 
restructuring of modern industry in which the various stages and 
elements in the production process are far more closely linked to¬ 
gether than before. At a time when ever wider use is being made 
of new, complex and expensive equipment and computers, the 
smooth uninterrupted running of the production process is crucial; 
in a number of branches of industry interruptions of production or 
negligent attitudes to equipment can incur most substantial losses. 
If the capitalists are to utilise all the achievements of the scientif¬ 
ic and technological revolution to their advantage, they require not 
only a work force that has been given an up-to-date training, is 
highly disciplined and turns in high-quality work, but also one 
that has a vested interest in the work itself, so that not only ma¬ 
terial but also moral incentives for labour activity have to be pro¬ 
vided. 

In improving the forms and methods of exploitation of the work¬ 
ing class bourgeois experts start out chiefly from the requirements 
of capitalist production, from the entrepreneurs’ endeavour to ex¬ 
tract the maximum possible profit from production. At the same 
time they are obliged more and more frequently to take into consid¬ 
eration those changes that have taken place during the period 
1950-1980 within the actual object of this exploitation, changes in 
the nature of the work force, its qualities, attitudes, value judge¬ 
ments with regard to its labour, and so on. 

Various forms of disconnected, monotonous and uninteresting 





232 


CHAPTER 5 


work that are widespread in capitalist production are proving j n _ 
creasingly intolerable as workers achieve higher levels of education 
and culture. Workers’ growing dissatisfaction with disconnected 
work operations, particularly on the assembly-line in the late 60s 
and early 70s assumed a form and momentum that constituted a 
dangerous threat to the very functioning of capitalist production. 
This was borne out by the growing scale of strike action providing 
an outlet for workers’ protests against methods of exploitation 
linked with this kind of labour (strikes at General Motors 
in Lordstown, and at the Renault plant in Le Mans in 1972, 
etc.). 

The scale that another somewhat unusual manifestation of protest 
assumed, also stemming from dissatisfaction with working condi¬ 
tions—absenteeism—can be illustrated with reference to the Fiat 
works in Turin. The percentage of lost working days went up from 
4 in 1960 to 8 in 1970 and reached almost 15 in 1972. Every morn¬ 
ing at the Turin plant between 13,000 and 15,000 workers did not 
turn up for work and after public holidays between 30 and 40 
per cent of the work force might fail to put in an appearance. 
This resulted in a drop in the production of cars by 200 units 
a day. 1 

In the light of acts such as these it has become increasingly clear 
that the methods of Taylor and Ford are ‘‘morally obsolete”, based 
as they are on unabashed coercion, breaking down work opera¬ 
tions into the smallest possible component elements and attempts to 
disunite the work force. They are based on the assumption that uni¬ 
ons should be banned or at least that they will not be allowed to 
operate in industrial enterprises and that workers will be kept 
quite separate from all aspects of management. Much that is 
contained in these principles still remains attractive for capita¬ 
lists but can no longer be applied within the context of today’s 
production. 

From as far back as the 30s and up until the early 60s wide use 
was made of methods combining material and moral incentives so 
as to improve productivity and intensity of labour. “Human relations” 
became the popular slogan; their tactics took into account socio-psy- 
chological factors so as to achieve more effective control of the work 
force in the production sphere. This involved a change in the forms 
of inspection of work operations and in the outward style of man¬ 
agement’s attitude to the worker (demonstrations of “attentiveness” 
and “respect” for him, polite forms of address and moral encourage¬ 
ment for achievements in the labour process. Yet these “human 
relations” tactics could not conceal the exploitation of workers with- 


1 L’Usine Nouvelle, September 1, 1973, No. 35, p. 48. 














































ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE WORKING CLASS 


233 


• n j.j ie capitalist enterprise and the material concessions, which the 
capitalists were obliged to make under pressure from the labour 
movement, failed to alleviate acute class antagonisms. 

Bourgeois experts in the organisation of labour began to elaborate 
measures for the reorganisation of conveyor-belt and assembly- 
line production and certain other types of particularly tiring work. 
Methods under the heading “humanisation of labour” designed to 
put an end to the fragmentation of labour operations and restruc¬ 
turing certain organisational forms of production processes were 
being introduced so as to make labour less monotonous and to stim¬ 
ulate more active initiative on the part of the worker. At a fac¬ 
tory for the production of synthetic fibres in Gloucester that be¬ 
longed to the leading British firm Imperial Chemical Industries Limit¬ 
ed, groups of eight people headed by a foreman and senior worker 
were set up in each workshop. This group of workers set their own 
norms, and it was allegedly in the interests of every worker to help 
his fellow-workers in his group whenever necessary; virtually all 
the control of the quality of work and the maintenance of labour 
discipline became the responsibility of the group. Changes in forms 
of labour paved the way towards more flexible and adaptable uti¬ 
lisation of the work force. Workers’ wages were increased by an 
average of 25 per cent and they began to receive full payment for 
days lost through sickness. As a result there was a considerable 
rise in productivity and the number of employees was reduced by 
20 per cent. Furthermore, a considerable economy was made in view 
of the now reduced expenditure on supervision or inspection of em¬ 
ployees’ work. 1 Since the late 60s and early 70s similar experi¬ 
ments were introduced in other branches of industry, in particular 
at the Volvo and Saab motor plants in Sweden, at Fiat-Mirafiori 
and Montecatini in Italy, the Renault works in France, etc. 2 
Within the context of capitalist production the functioning of 
which is geared towards the securing of profit, similar changes in 
forms of labour organisation reflect the endeavour on the monopo¬ 
lies’ part to adapt methods used for the exploitation of workers to- 
conditions obtaining in modern production and the current correla¬ 
tion of class forces. They inevitably acquire the character of socio- 
democratic measures aimed at developing class collaboration and the- 
ideological and psychological subordination of the working people to 
the ruling class. At the same time they provide a vivid illustration 
of the incompatibility of the relations inherent in capitalist exploi¬ 
tation, on the one hand, with the objective trends to be observed in 


1 The Director, September 1970, pp. 420-422, 424, 426. 

2 Y. Delamotte, Recherches en vue d’une organisation plus humaine du. 
travail industriel, Paris, 1972. 





234 


CHAPTER 5 


the organisation of labour that are born of the scientific and techno¬ 
logical revolution, on the other hand. These trends must of necessi¬ 
ty bring in their wake increasing involvement of the working peo¬ 
ple in tackling production issues. Yet involvement of this type is 
something quite inacceptable for the bourgeoisie, since it under¬ 
mines its power and freedom to exploit the work force at will. For 
precisely this reason the development of such trends under capital¬ 
ism can only be of a limited nature and can only be permitted in 
degrees and forms that still make possible the consolidation of the 
system of exploitation. 





































Chapter 6 

the development of the social psychology 
OF THE working class 


The first thirty years after the Second World War were marked by 
major changes in the consciousness and the whole psychological 
outlook of the working class in the capitalist countries. This pro¬ 
cess developed under the direct influence of the changes in the po¬ 
sition and structure of the working class, in the nature of labour 
and the way of life. At the same time the process was stimulated 
by the recent historical experience of the proletariat, by changes in 
the world and in individual capitalist countries which had left their 
mark on the consciousness of the masses. The ideological, political 
and organisational activity of the Communist parties, on the one 
hand, and the psychological consequences of the evolution of the 
proletarian masses and the development of their socio-political con¬ 
sciousness, on the other hand, were important factors shaping the 
course of the labour movement and the level and direction of the 
workers’ class struggle. 

As far back as the eve of the first Russian revolution, Lenin point¬ 
ed out that each of the transitional stages in the development of 
the revolutionary movement in Russia . .was prepared, on the one 
hand, by socialist thought . . . and on the other, by the profound 
changes that had taken place in the conditions of life and in the 
whole mentality of the working class”. 1 

The effect of the factors in the development of the labour move¬ 
ment noted by Lenin came more and more clearly to the fore in 
the conditions of post-war capitalist society. First of all, this was 
because in the escalating ideological struggle resulting from the 
confrontation of socialism and capitalism in the world arena, the 
bourgeois ideologists were striving harder than ever before to in¬ 
fluence the minds of the working people. The future prospects for 
the development of the labour movement and its chances of putting 


1 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 8, 1974, p. 211. 





236 


CHAPTER 6 


a stop to the tendency to become integrated into bourgeois society 
depended on “socialist thought”, on whether or not the bourgeois 
ideologists could give convincing, well-substantiated and well-timed 
answers to the questions being asked by the working class. Second¬ 
ly, the rapidly increasing pace and scale of change in the living 
conditions, mentality and the resultant accelerated emergence of 
new needs, motives and conceptions of the working masses were the 
source of greater dynamism in the labour movement, a renovation 
of its immediate goals, demands and methods of action. 

Developing as it was to a significant degree under the influence 
of changes in the proletariat's style of thinking, the class struggle of 
the working class in its turn had a major impact upon that style of 
thinking. Thus, changes in the proletariat’s mass consciousness are 
not in any way something that is separate from the history of the 
mass labour movement, or from the struggle of its various trends. 

The development of the class consciousness of the proletariat and 
the transformation of the proletariat from “a class in itself” into 
“the class for itself” is not a straightforward process. The historical 
experience of the labour movement has shown that in capitalist 
society there are advances in the class consciousness of the proleta¬ 
riat to be observed but also certain setbacks in that development. 
This stems from the powerful influence exerted by bourgeois ideolo¬ 
gy on the working class and also from the variable nature of its 
social existence. The development of capitalism and the struggle of 
the working class itself again and again confront it with new prob¬ 
lems and call forth new attitudes within this social milieu. For this 
reason at each new stage of the socio-historical process the working 
class needs to elaborate its conceptions of the world, appreciate 
where its interests lie, bearing in mind the changing conditions in 
its immediate environment. Inevitable difficulties in attempts to 
come to terms with new historical experience can for a time hold 
back the advance of the proletarian masses’ class consciousness. 


THE IMPACT OF THE POST-WAR SOCIO-POLITICAL 
SITUATION ON THE MASS CONSCIOUSNESS 
OF THE WORKING CLASS 

The early post-war years saw tremendous growth in the authority 
of the socialist system stemming from the decisive contribution that 
the USSR had made to the rout of German fascism and Japanese 
militarism. This period was also marked by popular-democratic and 
national liberation revolutions in a number of countries, and by an 
all-embracing enthusiasm for democratic ideas in the capitalist world. 
Both of these developments furthered the advance and enrichment 


































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


237 


of proletarian consciousness and served to activate revolutionary 
trends in the mass consciousness of the working class. The level and 
forms of the manifestation of these trends were far from identical 
from one country or region to another. In Western Europe, particu¬ 
larly in those quarters where the democratic movement had devel¬ 
oped directly from the anti-fascist liberation struggle led by the work¬ 
ing class, it often reached an almost revolutionary pitch: in France, 
Italy and some other countries, a significant section of the working 
class was psychologically ready to engage in revolutionary struggle 
to take power, to implement socialist transformations. In the re¬ 
maining West European countries and also in Japan the working 
class was intensifying its political activity and making ever strong¬ 
er demands for far-reaching democratic reforms. In countries that 
had been far less affected by the upheavals of the war years and 
which had not passed through the stage of mass-scale anti-fascist 
struggle, the above trends were less marked. Yet the fight against 
and victory over fascism had fostered the political enlightenment 
of the working class everywhere and created a psychological atmos¬ 
phere in which everyone was expecting big progressive changes in 
the life of society. Almost overnight the more militant sections of 
the labour movement had acquired new authority and Communist 
parties were enjoying more influence among the masses. Democratic 
reforms introduced in many countries after the Second World War 
enhanced the faith of the working class in its own strength and 
in the capacity to bring its influence to bear on socio-political devel¬ 
opments. 

One of the most important consequences of the anti-fascist liber¬ 
ation struggle was the way it had consolidated democratic ideals, 
enabling the latter to play a more important role in the conscious¬ 
ness of the mass strata of the working people. In a situation very 
different from that which had taken shape in the countries of the 
capitalist West after the First World War, when the working class 
and other mass strata of society experienced profound disillusion¬ 
ment in the institutions of bourgeois democracy, the masses at this 
point in time—in the 40s and 50s—saw these institutions as some¬ 
thing that had been fought for and defended in the fight against 
fascism. Furthermore, the experience of the first few years after the 
war showed that the labour movement could make the most of its 
democratic rights and freedoms under capitalism as a means to 
achieve profound social reforms, limit the power of the bourgeoisie 
and to launch an offensive against the very foundations of the cap¬ 
italist system. This new role for bourgeois-democratic institutions 
was reflected in the programmes put forward at this period by 
Communist parties. 

The fact that democratic moods and ideals were taking root in 






238 


CHAPTER 6 


the mass consciousness of the working class could, and indeed did 
provide an important socio-psychological precondition for the transi- 
tion of the wide strata within that class to active involvement in the 
fight against the monopolies, for doing away with sectarian inclina¬ 
tions, which divorced the narrow interpretation of the workers’ in¬ 
terests from the main problems of socio-political life and isolated 
the proletariat from its potential allies. Only after absorbing demo¬ 
cratic attitudes and ideals could the working class become the lead¬ 
ing force in the fight against the monopolies, which under SMC 
was a vital step in the fight for socialism. 

The transition to the cold war and the explosion of anti-communist 
hysteria which accompanied it, together with the rapidly escalating 
confrontation between working-class organisations adopting diamet¬ 
rically opposed ideological and political stances served seriously to 
hold back or distort the development of these socio-psychological 
trends. 

In the very unusual atmosphere of the cold war the growth of the 
working class’ democratic aspirations, and the widening of its social 
horizons, both of which were important features in the development 
of proletarian class consciousness, were to be found side by side 
with other completely opposite trends. Anti-communist propaganda 
exploited to the full the deep attachment which the masses felt for 
democratic rights and institutions. One of the main ideas put for¬ 
ward in this propaganda was that there could be nothing in com¬ 
mon between communism and democracy and no stone was left 
unturned in the campaign to instil this idea into the consciousness 
of the working people, to disorientate certain sections of the working 
people and to obscure the paths and prospects for the fight for social¬ 
ism and democracy. At a time when world socialism and the com¬ 
munist movement were enjoying growing influence anti-communist 
propaganda was aimed at convincing the masses that democracy 
could only be defended and developed within the context of the capi¬ 
talist order. Propaganda of this kind aimed both at achieving the 
political isolation of the Communist parties and frightening the pop¬ 
ulation with the alleged threat of “Soviet expansion” gave rise to 
a certain stabilisation of the influence exerted by reformist and 
right-wing bourgeois policies on quite a significant section of the 
working class. 

The political and propaganda activity aimed at undermining the 
more intense activity of the proletariat was further reinforced— 
particularly in the 50s—by the socio-economic course pursued by 
SMC. Measures to stimulate economic growth and promote various 
“economic miracles”, the expansion of mass consumption, the accel¬ 
erating pace of the scientific and technological revolution, the re¬ 
sorption of mass-scale unemployment in a number of countries 






























SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


239 


and the advance of social welfare systems were all used by the cap¬ 
italist political apparatus and parties to bring pressure to bear 
upon the psychology of the masses. It was precisely at this period 
that the political course was elaborated aimed at the “social integra¬ 
tion” of the working class into capitalism, one of the main elements 
of which was the slogan of the “consumer society”. 

The essential aim of this political course was to remould the 
consciousness of the working people and to promote a new type of 
citizen for whom the possession of a selection of material goods and 
benefits accessible to the average mass consumer was the main mo¬ 
tive behind his behaviour, leaving no room for any type of social 
protest or activity in his life. The expansion and enhancement of 
the worker’s standards of material consumption thanks to the mass 
production of cars, refrigerators, television sets, etc. created the 
illusion that the working class was “coming up in the world” and 
distracted its attention from the fundamental problems in its- 
economic and social position. 

The same goal was behind the attempts to win over certain strata 
of the working class—strata that were wider than the traditional 
workers’ aristocracy, first and foremost working people employed in 
factories belonging to the most powerful monopolies in the most 
rapidly developing branches of industry that possessed particularly 
promising opportunities for pursuing a paternalist “high wage pol¬ 
icy”. As pointed out earlier, social tactics of this sort were closely 
hound up with attempts to bring deliberate pressure to bear on 
workers’ organisations and to integrate these into the mechanism of 
state-monopoly regulation, and with the propaganda campaign ex¬ 
tolling the virtues of a new role for the state that would allegedly 
reform class relations. 

The psychological effect of this policy and the degree of its real 
influence on the minds of the working people varied a great deal 
from one country and one region to another in the capitalist world. 
To a large extent they were determined by the level and rate of 
economic development in each country and the material power of 
monopoly capital (in the United States, for example, and in the for¬ 
mer British dominions or in Sweden the required economic precondi¬ 
tions emerged far earlier than in most of the states of Western 
Europe or Japan). The decisive factors, however, were the actual 
historical conditions in which the ideological and political develop¬ 
ment of each detachment of the working class was proceeding, its 
experience and traditions, the characteristics of the labour movement 
in each country concerned that had taken shape in the course of its 
history hitherto. 

In the United States, because of the special features of this coun¬ 
try the influence of bourgeois ideology on the working class had 





240 


CHAPTER 6 


always been relatively extensive. The historical circumstances relat¬ 
ing to the formation of the American proletariat, that underlay the 
fragmentation of the population according to ethnic groups, had held 
back the development of its class consciousness. Apolitical or reac¬ 
tionary trade unionism was predominant in the organised labour 
movement. For this reason the working class proved most receptive 
to the values of the “consumer society”. The cult of the dollar and 
individual success, so typical of the American way of life, misled 
many workers. The place which the American imperialists had come 
to occupy in the capitalist world of the post-war period, their role 
in the perpetration of anti-communist policies both inside the coun¬ 
try and beyond its borders and finally the limited degree to which 
the bulk of Americans had been exposed to the events of the anti¬ 
fascist democratic struggle, all made it easier for imperialist and 
chauvinist ideas to take root in their minds, ideas with which they 
were inundated with the full force of the world’s largest bourgeois 
propaganda machine and system of mass media. 

In Western Europe, the Social Democratic parties and the leader¬ 
ship of the reformist trade unions co-operating with them had played 
a major part in consolidating the influence of bourgeois ideology on 
the working class. The ideological and psychological consequences of 
their activity were, naturally, far more obvious in those countries 
where the bulk of the workers by tradition linked the defence of 
their interests in the political sphere with the Social Democrats. In 
these conditions the switch of the Social Democratic leadership to 
positions of militant anti-communism and anti-Sovietism and the 
relatively unabashed replacement of socialist aims with support for 
state-monopoly development led the workers to reconcile themselves 
with this “new-style” capitalism. 

Another factor involved in the influence of bourgeois ideology on 
the working class, especially its less politically developed sector 
(Catholic workers, workers who had recently turned their back on 
rural life, women, etc.) was the prominent position that had been 
secured by new bourgeois parties in a number of countries in con¬ 
tinental Europe, parties such as the Mouvement Republicain Popu¬ 
late (MRP) and the Rassemblement pour la Republique (RPR), 
in France, the Partito Democrazia Cristiana in Italy and the Christ- 
lich-Democratische Union in West Germany. Unlike the parties 
of the “old” type they had not been compromised by any collabora¬ 
tion with the fascists and they supported certain social reforms in 
the interests of the working people and numbered among their sup¬ 
porters various “workers’ ” or “left” groups which had attempted 
to take into account and reflect in their policy documents the de¬ 
mands of the working class. Characteristic of all these parties was 
their endeavour to establish links with the mass labour organ isa- 



























SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


241 


tions: the majority of them made wide use of the democratic and 
anti-capitalist demagogy of “social Catholicism”. Similar tendencies 
were to be observed in the activity of certain “traditional” bourgeois 
parties (such as that of the British Conservatives). 

While the policy of the Social Democrats held back and distorted 
the development of the class consciousness of part of the proleta¬ 
riat, which to one extent or another shared socialist ideals and in 
the situation that had taken shape after the war was able actively 
to support the fight to have such ideals implemented, bourgeois pol¬ 
icy, on the other hand, was aimed directly at holding back the ris¬ 
ing tide of anti-capitalist feeling among the more backward sec¬ 
tions of the working class. 

The psychological effect of bourgeois and social-democratic poli¬ 
cies and propaganda in the majority of West European countries 
and Japan grew stronger in some degree or other as a result of 
the relatively rapid transition from the hungry war and post-war 
years to the consumption boom, and in many of these countries to 
a certain degree of material prosperity. The most graphic example 
of this was provided by West Germany, where, as pointed out in 
1969 by the then Chairman of the German Communist Party, Kurt 
Bachmann: “The integration of the working people [into the capital¬ 
ist system— Ed.] ... has proceeded further than in any other West 
European state.” 1 Apart from the factors mentioned above, some¬ 
thing else that came into play here as well was the aftermath of 
twelve years of Hitlerite domination that had deprived a whole gen¬ 
eration of the working class of the opportunity to have passed on 
to it proletarian traditions and class ideology, and also the fanning 
of revanchist sentiments and hostility towards the German Democrat¬ 
ic Republic. As was revealed in the findings of some detailed sur¬ 
veys, false conceptions of blurred class differences, of the opportu¬ 
nity to be enjoyed by every working man under the existing order 
to secure fair wages and to acquire property to the effect that the 
“free enterprise” system was best designed to ensure prosperity for 
the working people were propagated during the 50s among the rela¬ 
tively wide strata of the West German workers. 

In this connection it is essential to point out once more that the 
decisive preconditions for the propagation of such views among 
Workers were not so much objective economic and social processes 
(although their importance is self-evident), as subjective factors— 
insufficient political experience of the masses themselves and the 
ideological and political complexion of the organised labour move¬ 
ment. 


1 K. Bachmann, “Die Deutsche Kommunistische Partei nach dem Essener 
Parteitag”, in Marxistische Blatter, No. 4, 1969, p- 41. 


16-0515 





242 


CHAPTER 6 


A rather different situation took shape in countries where during 
the war and in the first post-war years the working class began to 
lead a mass democratic struggle, where Communist parties had se¬ 
cured the dominant position in the labour movement during that 
period. Here the impact of the social tactics employed by SMC on 
the minds of the working people proved infinitely smaller. 

This applies first of all to France and Italy. In France, after two 
decades of intensive anti-communist propaganda, combined with a 
variety of measures aimed at the “integration” and splitting of the 
working class and at re-educating it in a spirit of “consumer society” 
ideals etc., the Communist Party remained the party representing 
the working class more than any other and socialist ideology retained 
its firm influence among the workers. In accordance with a sur¬ 
vey conducted in 1966, 53 per cent of the French workers regarded 
the French Communist Party as the champion of the interests of the 
working class, 35 per cent intended to vote for it at the next elec¬ 
tion and 30 per cent considered that the establishment of a “com¬ 
munist regime” in the country would be in their interest. 1 In 
Italy, surveys showed that in the 60s approximately 40 per cent 
of workers voted for the Communists. 2 In these countries class- 
based trade unions (the CGT in France and the CGIL in Italy) 
during the whole of the period under discussion were the most au¬ 
thoritative and representative professional organisations of the work¬ 
ing people. Typical of the political climate in these two countries 
was the fact that in both countries the Communist parties enjoyed 
the most widespread and deep-rooted influence in regions where 
technically advanced large-scale industry was established, in which 
the most skilled and best paid detachments of the industrial prole¬ 
tariat were concentrated (the Paris and Marseilles regions in France 
and the Milan-Turin-Genoa triangle in Italy). This fact demonstrat¬ 
ed that the calculations of the bourgeois politicians, who had been 
counting on the fact that the reduction in material poverty and the 
rise in workers’ cultural levels would automatically undermine the 
influence of revolutionary ideas, were ill-founded. 

While drawing attention to the considerable ideological and psy¬ 
chological differences to be found in the development of the various 
national detachments of the working class, it would not be right at 
the same time to lay too much emphasis on these differences. Even 
in those countries where the least favourable conditions took shape 
after the war for the advance of the proletariat’s class consciousness, 
the influence of bourgeois ideas and attitudes proved incapable of 

1 Cahiers du communisme, No. 1, 1968, pp. 37, 42; No. 12, 1967, p. 66. 

2 J. Meynaud, Les partis politiques en Italie, Paris, 1965, p. 94; Mattei 
Dogan, “Comportement politique et condition sociale en Italie”, in Revue 
frangaise de Sociologie, Vol. VII, Numero special, 1966, p. 714. 
























SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


243 


eroding its foundations. In the 50s, many bourgeois and reformist 
ideologists and politicians were inclined to take seriously the pros¬ 
pect that “social integration” might be entirely successful. The 
relative lull in the militant activity of the working class in a num¬ 
ber of countries, the drawing of various reformist trade unions into 
certain forms of class collaboration were interpreted as a reflection 
of the ongoing process of the embourgeoisement of workers’ atti¬ 
tudes. Events were soon to shatter these illusions. The gathering mo¬ 
mentum of the mass strike movement in the majority of capitalist 
countries, the spread of “wild-cat” strikes reflecting the profound 
discontentment of the rank-and-file workers with the compromise 
tactics of the trade union bureaucracy showed that the proletarian 
mass was far removed from the acceptance of its position that had 
been attributed to it. Later the 60s would be acknowledged as the 
time of crisis for that system of industrial relations which had 
seemed so firmly established the decade before. All even remotely 
serious and thorough investigations of workers’ attitudes that were 
undertaken in various capitalist countries bore witness to the fact 
that embourgeoisement was not taking place. 1 

Both in the 50s and 60s an awareness of class differences and 
class inequality was to be found among the wide strata of the pro¬ 
letariat, who understood the need to defend their interests in the 
fight against the entrepreneurs. It goes without saying that in every 
country there were to be found within the working class various 
different, at times opposed, ideas and attitudes, the balance of which 
could vary from one period to another. Under the impact of changes 
in living conditions and of bourgeois propaganda some sections 
of the working class were inclined to believe in the possibility of 
their class’ “social progress” within the framework of capitalism and 
to share the ideas of those who supported class collaboration. Moods 
of this kind were most common among the working people in those 
enterprises and branches of industry, in which, because of the in¬ 
creased demand for labour, the rate of wage increases was above 
average; some workers who had recently come into industry after 
working on the land or being part of the petty bourgeoisie also 
fell prey to these moods. The bulk of the industrial proletariat, how¬ 
ever, did not share any such illusions. Even in the United States, 
the majority of workers understood that the corporations and big 


1 S. M. Miller, F. Riessman, “The Working Class Subculture: A New 
View,” in the journal Class and Personality in Society , New York, 1969, 
pp. 99-117; John H. Goldthorpe and others, The Affluent Worker in the Class 
Structure, Cambridge, 1969; B. M. Berger, Working-Class Suburb, Berkeley, 
1960; A. Levison, The Working-Class Majority, New York, 1975; R. Parker, 
The'Myth of the Middle Class, New York, 1972; M. Fried, The World of the 
Urban Working Class, Cambridge, 1973. 


16 * 





244 


CHAPTER 6 


business as a whole were exploiting them and that the main aim of 
the business world was to secure more and more profit; they realised 
that it is precisely the world of business that unleashes wars, buys 
the co-operation of judges and congressmen and obliges the govern¬ 
ment to comply with its diktat. 1 In other countries, where anti- 
capitalist traditions among the working class were stronger, these 
convictions were far more widespread. 

Despite all changes in the social tactics of the capitalists and in 
the level and structure of mass consumption, everyday experience 
of relations in production continued to convince the workers that 
their interests and the interests of the capitalist property owners 
were fundamentally opposed to each other and that there was a need 
for organised struggle if they were to raise their living standards 
and improve their working conditions. 

It proved far harder for many workers to appreciate the opportu¬ 
nities and prospects for the fundamental restructuring of society, 
for the enhancement of the role their class might play in political 
life, and to appreciate the true nature not only of their material in¬ 
terests, but also of their broader socio-political interests. 

A number of factors made the appreciation of these opportunities 
and interests difficult. They were linked in no small degree with 
the increasing complexity of social life. While for the bulk of the 
working class its position was associated first and foremost with 
material poverty and an excessive burden of work, the blame for 
this hardship could be epitomised in the all too visible, easily rec¬ 
ognised figure of the capitalist exploiter, and the expropriation of 
the capitalist class could be envisaged in the general and clear 
terms of social liberation. When, however, on the one hand, their 
personal experience began to convince more and more workers that 
the reduction of the scale of poverty was by no means tantamount to 
the elimination of exploitation, and on the other hand, the very 
system of exploitation, thanks to the development of the capitalist 
administrative apparatus, had assumed an outwardly “anonymous”, 
faceless character, it became more difficult for the rank-and-file 
worker to appreciate the specific aims of the revolutionary struggle 
and to single out his class enemies. Increasing complexity of in¬ 
dustrial and social organisation, the growing importance in man¬ 
agement of specialised knowledge and the social groups which pos¬ 
sessed it created for the ideologists of the ruling class additional 
opportunities to introduce to the consciousness of the masses the 
false idea that class differences were shaped by the inexorable de¬ 
mands of modern technology and the division of labour. In this 


1 L. Lipsitz, “Work Life and Political Attitudes”, in: The White Majority. 
Between Poverty and Affluence, New York, 1970, p. 160. 


































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


245 


way exploitation and social oppression were divorced from their 
class, capitalist basis and every effort was made to convince work¬ 
ers that socialist aspirations and ideals could not be implemented 
and that the struggle to fulfil them was a senseless one. 

Negative aspects of the policies pursued by leaders of Social Dem¬ 
ocratic parties and reformist trade unions were also to have a con¬ 
siderable influence upon the socio-political consciousness of the 
proletariat. With each passing day workers in many capitalist coun¬ 
tries came to realise that those organisations which they had come 
over the years to regard as the vehicles for the defence of their in¬ 
terests, not only were failing to pursue class-based policies funda¬ 
mentally different from the policies of the ruling class, but were of¬ 
ten adapting their line to converge more closely with a state-monop¬ 
olist course. Those sections of the working people (fairly consid¬ 
erable in most of the capitalist countries), who were not receiving 
reliable information as to the truly revolutionary essence of Marx- 
ist-Leninist policies, began to lose faith in the possibility of a rad¬ 
ical alternative to reformism, in the capacity of the labour move¬ 
ment to put forward such an alternative and to fight for it. The no¬ 
tion that the working class was politically weak made more likely 
the split within the labour movement both on an international scale 
and within a number of countries. 

All this brought forth a psychological atmosphere among certain 
strata of the working class that produced a kind of social pessimism 
and, stemming directly from the latter, political apathy, a view of 
politics as something “dirty” and far removed from the concerns of 
the working man: it led the most backward sections of the working 
class to support bourgeois parties. Many of these who did not be¬ 
lieve in any opportunity for the proletariat to bring its influence 
forcefully to bear on political life sought a solution in basing their 
activities on the “knowledge” and “experience” of bourgeois poli¬ 
ticians. A special role in this situation was played by the broaden¬ 
ing socio-economic functions of the bourgeois state and its propa¬ 
ganda, which sought to persuade the masses that only “competent 
specialists” from the ruling class were capable of managing the econ¬ 
omy and society. 

During the elections in the 50s and 60s no less than a third of 
the workers in countries such as Britain, Italy, and France voted 
for bourgeois parties. 1 The absence of any clear political perspec¬ 
tive, making it difficult to understand the links between working- 
class interests and the political struggle gave rise to a situation in 


1 Socio-Political Changes in the Countries of Advanced Capitalism, Moscow, 
4971, p. 266; N. M. Stepanova, The Conservative Party and the Working Class 
in Post-War Britain, Moscow, 1972, p. 30 (both in Bussian). 




426 


CHAPTER 6 


which part of the working class behaved in a passive way, even 
when their socio-economic gains were under immediate threat. \ 
typical instance of this was to be found in the events of 1958 i Q 
France: weariness and disillusion resulting from the split in the 
labour movement and its failure to influence the political situation 
during the period of the Fourth Republic prevented the working 
class from coming forward as an active force when the Republic 
was struck by crisis and then fell. In the United States, the lack 
of a mass-scale workers’ party and the relatively low level of work¬ 
ers’ political consciousness gave rise to conditions in which work¬ 
ers’ social discontent sometimes led some of them to support ultra- 
reactionary politicians such as George Wallace who criticised the 
current situation and demanded that “law and order” be reintro¬ 
duced into the country. 

THE GROWING ANTI-MONOPOLIST AND ANTI-CAPITALIST 
TRENDS IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS 
OF THE WORKING CLASS 

Phenomena of the kind outlined above, although they became fair¬ 
ly widespread in certain countries at certain periods, did not, how¬ 
ever, determine the main course of development of proletarian 
consciousness. Side by side with these transient phenomena there 
were to be observed profound socio-psychological processes at work 
within the proletarian masses that were paving the way for an acute 
conflict between the proletariat and the whole system of state- 
monopoly capitalism. 

An important aspect of these processes was to be found in the far- 
reaching changes in the working class’ system of needs. The encour¬ 
agement of new mass-scale material needs that SMC had gone out 
of its way to use for its own purposes had proved in practice a two- 
edged weapon. Despite the rise in average living standards, the broad 
strata of the working people were still experiencing material pover¬ 
ty and deprivation. For other, still broader strata of the working 
people their purchasing power was seen all the time to be lagging 
behind the rising consumer standards. At a time when relatively fa¬ 
vourable economic conditions prevailed (when the scale of cyclical 
crises and unemployment had been reduced), accompanied by loud 
propaganda to the effect that the era of “universal affluence” was at 
hand, phenomena of the above kind called forth increasingly reso¬ 
lute protest on the part of the working class. The masses, and in 
particular the younger generation of the working people, began to 
evaluate their standard of living, focusing their attention not only 
and not so much on its current level or on comparisons with past 
levels, as on a comparison between those living standards and the 














































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


247 


opportunities the economy could have been providing for them and 
oil a comparison between their own living standards and those en¬ 
joyed by the most highly paid strata of society, i.e. they ap¬ 
proached the whole problem from a broader social perspective. 
Hence the phenomenon seen as paradoxical by many bourgeois 
politicians: a rapid stepping-up in the demands and militant activity 
of even those strata of the working class whose material position 
had been improving over a fairly long period. 

New motives behind the working people’s attitude to their own 
living standards came more clearly to the fore: these were deter¬ 
mined not so much by their endeavour to satisfy material needs as by 
the awareness of their right to share the fruits of economic progress 
and to a steady enhancement of their material position. This de¬ 
velopment reflected the influence of the complex socio-political sit¬ 
uation of the post-war period: the truth about the social achieve¬ 
ments scored by the socialist countries that had filtered through the 
cold-war barriers, the increased role of the working class in econom¬ 
ic development, the strengthening of its position within society 
and the impact produced by certain aspects of the capitalists’ social 
tactics. 

This meant that, albeit often in an as yet somewhat vague and 
“instinctive form”, the endeavour of the working people to enhance 
the social dignity of the working man and to change his position 
in the system of social relations influenced the proletariat’s view 
of even its elementary material needs. The growth of this endeavour 
robbed the image of the “integrated” toiler fashioned by the proph¬ 
ets of the “consumer society” of any semblance of reality even 
more conclusively than before: this toiler of the future was repre¬ 
sented by bourgeois propaganda as a man ready to confine his ideals 
in life to a selection of standardised consumer value. 

The increased importance of the issue of social dignity was a man¬ 
ifestation of the profound, qualitative changes in the whole sys¬ 
tem of the rank-and-file worker’s needs. 

Once the working people’s elementary material needs had, in 
part at least, been satisfied, they began to turn their attention more 
and more to the price which capitalism was forcing them to pay 
for the rise in their living standards. An immediate stimulus be¬ 
hind this psychological change in attitudes was the increasing ner¬ 
vous and mental exhaustion experienced by workers as a result of 
the greater intensity of their work. This change also reflected their 
growing resistance to methods of capitalist exploitation based on 
the “carrot” of allegedly high wages. Questions regarding working 
conditions assumed more and more importance in the motives and 
demands involved in strike action: these questions covered such is¬ 
sues as the organisation and pace of labour, the length of leaves 






248 


CHAPTER 6 


granted and protests at the sweating system of wages. 

Demands of this kind gave very clear expression to the working 
people’s endeavour to enhance the human dignity of the working 
man: for example, the working people protested against the sys¬ 
tem of wages that made wage levels dependent upon the zeal, dis¬ 
cipline and “loyalty” to the management displayed by workers, and 
demanded that a large part of their wages should include a guar¬ 
anteed minimum. This last motive was closely linked with the 
growing need for a stable, secure material position and place in the 
system of production. This need, of course, had always been im¬ 
portant for the proletariat, but in the 50s and in particular in the 
60s and 70s, it emerged in a new capacity as one of the crucial mo¬ 
tives behind the working people’s militant activity. This was borne 
out by the widening scale of the struggle to provide conditions for 
the retraining of working people, whose trades had grown obsolete, 
and to link wages and social benefits to a cost of living index and 
to improve the system of job skills. Demands of this kind reflected 
not merely the material but also the social aspects of the problem, 
the refusal by the workers to have their lives shaped by norms dic¬ 
tated by the laws of the private-capitalist economy and its anar¬ 
chic processes outside the control of society. Unemployment and 
similar phenomena were no longer regarded as unavoidable evils, 
but came to he appreciated more and more as something incompat¬ 
ible with the elementary norms of social existence. 

This meant the workers’ recent social experience brought them 
to a profound appreciation of the mechanisms at work within capi¬ 
talist exploitation, which went further than protests against the 
most primitive “material” manifestations of those mechanisms. 
“Haven’t we stopped being coolies, just because we’ve got television 
sets?” “In our system we’ll never he better off than we are now. 
And we’re not well off! However much they may boast about Swed¬ 
ish prosperity abroad! .. . We don’t need plastic boats, fridges 
and bars to be able to talk about decent standards... The fact is 
that we, me and all my mates, every worker in the whole of Swe¬ 
den, are shut out of society. We are not free. . . We are ignorant 
and powerless.. . You have to have food to live, but hav¬ 
ing food is not enough to be able to say that you have a decent 
life”. Statements such as these drawn from survey data recorded 
among West German and Swedish workers 1 bear witness to the 
far broader range of motives behind the social discontent of the 
working class, to the fact that in the final analysis many rank-and- 

1 Socio-Political Changes in the Countries of Advanced Capitalism, p. 91; 
Das schwedische Modell der Ausbeutung. Texte zum Arbeiterleben und zur 
Klassenstruktur im Wohlfahrtsstaat, edited by Victor Pfaff and Mond Wik- 
hall, Cologne—(West) Berlin, 1971, p. 48. 











































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


249 


£] e workers have grasped the essence of the modified tactics of the 
ca pitali s ts and have succeeded in avoiding those psychological traps 
which the “consumer society” had set up for them. The extension 
0 f working-class needs has meant that protests against un¬ 
satisfactory working conditions have developed into protests against 
whole system of social oppression and inequality, intrinsic to 
capitalist social relations. 

Changes in the skill patterns of the working class and its higher 
educational and cultural levels were to have a most significant in¬ 
fluence upon these socio-psychological processes. Longer years spent 
at school, and the more extensive knowledge acquired by workers, 
their improved access to information (thanks to the development 
of mass media) about phenomena, values and norms beyond the 
confines of their own personal experience and a certain rapproche¬ 
ment between industrial and office workers, the increase in the num¬ 
ber of elements of skilled brain-work involved in the production 
functions of the broad strata of the working class, all encouraged 
the growing need for a life that was more mentally stimulating, 
varied and interesting, the need for creative activity and social 
growdh. Around half of the West German workers questioned for 
a survey in 1965-1967 declared that they would be prepared to ac¬ 
cept work that was less well paid if it were more varied and inter¬ 
esting; 67 per cent of them expressed dissatisfaction with opportun¬ 
ities for growth provided at their particular enterprise. 1 The mag¬ 
azine Newsweek wrote in May 1971: “All in all, the American 
blue-collar worker of today, while earning more real money (in 
terms of purchasing power) for fewer hours than ever before, is 
just plain unhappy.” With reference to opinions expressed by rank- 
and-file workers, trade union representatives and specialists in la¬ 
bour relations the magazine named among reasons accounting for 
growing job dissatisfaction higher levels of education that led to 
higher levels of disappointment, and the influence of television that 
was “presenting an envy-arousing picture of affluence unattained”. 2 

By the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s admissions of 
this type were beginning to appear more and more frequently in 
scientific studies and the press of the capitalist countries. In the 
United States, Britain, Sweden, Italy and other countries represen¬ 
tatives of the business world were becoming increasingly anxious 
at the revulsion felt by workers, particularly young and better edu¬ 
cated ones, at the mind-blunting work required of them in industry 
where they were always in a subordinate position and the growing 
absenteeism stemming from this, at the increasingly rapid turnover 

1 Horst Kern and Michael Schumann, Industriearbeit und Arbeiterbewusst- 
sein, Frankfort on the Main, 1973, Vol. 2, p. 150. 

2 Newsweek, 1971, May 17, p. 54. 






250 


CHAPTER 6 


of the work force and the more and more frequent cases of sabo¬ 
tage of production. 

The development of these higher—intellectual, cultural and mor¬ 
al-needs of the workers represented an irreconcilable contradic¬ 
tion to the principles of capitalist industrial and social organisation. 
Needs of this type found among the working people capitalism is far 
less well equipped to satisfy than material needs: the aims of cap¬ 
italist production demand that the personality of the worker, his 
intellectual potential and whole life be totally subordinate to the 
goal of securing maximum profits for the capitalists. Neither social- 
demagogic measures that allegedly take account of the working 
people’s endeavour to achieve “enhanced social status”, nor the ex¬ 
tension of the system provided in a number of capitalist countries 
for workers’ vocational training change anything essential. Meas¬ 
ures of this sort are always limited by the narrow framework of the 
business interests of the capitalist economy, and therefore workers’ 
greater knowledge would only be used in a very much doctored 
fashion: capitalists are always promoting the trend to turn the 
worker into an appendage of his machine even when this is in bla¬ 
tant contradiction to the objective demands of the productive forces. 
In the vast majority of cases the path to the profession of en¬ 
gineer or research worker remains closed to the man from the fac¬ 
tory floor: despite a certain democratisation of higher education, 
workers’ children have fewer opportunities to enter higher educa¬ 
tion, let alone to complete it, than do children of bourgeois or mid¬ 
dle-class families. 

When workers come up against these social barriers inherent in 
the very nature of the capitalist order, the new needs and aspira¬ 
tions of the working class render more acute workers’ sense of so¬ 
cial inequality and dependence on forces outside their control which 
dominate society. For this reason in many detachments of the work¬ 
ing class, and in particular in the most advanced and militant ones, 
these needs and aspirations found expression in protests against the 
existing system of economic and political power, in demands for 
the democratisation of the whole socio-political edifice. 

The development of the mass labour movement, particularly dur¬ 
ing the second half of the 60s, reflected these new socio-psychologi- 
cal trends. In most of the capitalist countries these manifested them¬ 
selves in the rapid increase in the militant activity of mass demon¬ 
strations calling for the immediate satisfaction of partial socio-eco¬ 
nomic demands. Increasingly long strikes and the use of more force¬ 
ful forms of struggle (for example, mass occupation of factories), 
heightened determination and resolution and more initiative on the 
part of rank-and-file workers, who had often begun their strike ac¬ 
tion despite the instructions of the union leadership, all this made 


















































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


251 


H clear that even during “purely” economic strikes the working 
masses were expressing their aspirations that went far beyond sim¬ 
ple increases in wages or improved working conditions. The mo¬ 
tives behind the economic struggle of the working class now 
covered a far wider range: material demands more and more fre¬ 
quently represented protests against the totality of existing social 
conditions in the societies based on exploitation. 

The development of the above socio-psychological trends provided 
far more substantial preconditions for the “politicisation” of the 
working masses’ consciousness and for their transition to a stance 
of more active political struggle. Under SMC, even the struggle to 
get elementary material demands met brought the workers up against 
the capitalist state with its policy of moulding the living con¬ 
ditions of the proletariat in keeping with the long-term interests of 
the capitalist economy. This clash became even more acute when 
the working masses in one way or another came out against the 
relations of social dependence. In conditions where the role of the 
state was becoming ever wider in all spheres of social life it took 
upon itself more and more blatantly the functions of guarantor 
and defender of those relations. 

The spontaneous development of mass needs inevitably overtook 
the process of their logical appreciation and elaboration as part of 
a system of organised action. The changes in the needs of the work¬ 
ing class outlined above paved the way towards important new pre¬ 
conditions for revolutionising working-class consciousness. Yet spon¬ 
taneous socio-psychological trends in themselves cannot automatical¬ 
ly develop into a deliberate programme to revolutionise the existing 
order. Here the decisive role is that of “socialist thought” and the 
activity of the organised labour movement. The elaboration of prog¬ 
rammes of action for the movement that corresponded to the new 
level of the working masses’ social aspirations and the practical or¬ 
ganisation of struggle to implement those aspirations were to be the 
all-important conditions for the realisation of the considerably ex¬ 
tended revolutionary potential of the working class. 

A crucial role in the solution of these tasks was that played by 
the political and ideological activity of the proletariat’s Marxist- 
Leninist vanguard. Meanwhile the processes at work within the So¬ 
cial Democratic parties and the reformist trade unions bore witness 
to the fact that the development of the consciousness of that section 
of the masses that had been under the influence of the former was 
now coming into conflict with reformist ideology and the politics of 
class collaboration. Militant class-conscious trends were being or¬ 
ganised and rallying everywhere in the unions: under pressure from 
the mass struggle certain changes were now to be observed in the 
programmes for action and political stance of the vast majority of 






252 


CHAPTER 6 


reformist trade unions. These changes reflected the growing opp 0s ; 
tion on the part of the working people to SMC. The ideological araj 
political differentiation within the Social Democratic movement w 
on the increase and left-socialist tendencies were gaining ground 

The growing anti-monopolist and anti-capitalist trends in the 
mass consciousness of the proletariat could not overnight do away 
with the reformist illusions which were deep-rooted just as the tra- 
ditions of trade union “economism”. These trends were developing 
unevenly in the various national detachments of the working class 
and those which embraced specific professions or specific skill lev¬ 
els. At a time when the structure of the working class was becom¬ 
ing significantly more complex, the unevenness of its ideological 
and psychological levels of development was also bound to 
increase. 

The narrowing of the gap between the blue-collar workers and 
white-collar workers, or the mass strata of office workers and mem¬ 
bers of the scientific and technical intelligentsia, and the proletaria¬ 
nisation of these strata had a dialectically contradictory effect upon 
the ideas and attitudes of the working class. On the one hand, these 
processes led to a wider proliferation of proletarian norms, tradi¬ 
tions and socio-political conceptions of new strata of the working 
people. The organisation of unions among white-collar workers and 
members of the intelligentsia proceeded more rapidly and these 
groups became more involved in the mass-scale militant activity of 
the working class and a spirit of proletarian collectivism made it¬ 
self felt. The most educated strata of the working people, when they 
were drawn into the class struggle of the proletariat, brought with 
them a keen and deliberate interest in problems of the democratic 
reforms in both production and society. They thereby helped to wi¬ 
den the social horizons of the broad working masses and to pro¬ 
mote new demands. 

On the other hand, the socio-psychological and social (with re¬ 
gard to labour functions, social status and prestige, etc.) differences 
between those engaged in manual and those engaged in mental 
labour, which still existed, gave rise to certain problems in the for¬ 
mation of class consciousness of the expanding working class. In¬ 
dividualism and concentration on career prospects within the office 
or profession concerned and the resulting social passivity are fea¬ 
tures which are traditionally associated with the wide strata of 
white-collar workers and graduate specialists under capitalism, 
although they are less prominent now, thanks to the influence 
of objective social change but nevertheless continue to set 
many of the above apart from industrial workers. The social 
changes referred to earlier cannot overnight sever the psychological 
ties between these social groups and the bourgeoisie: the findings 










































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


253 


0 f empiric^ surveys have shown that most members of these 
groups continue to see themselves as part of the middle class. 

Empirical data also make it clear that in every individual coun¬ 
try the political stance of the majority of the white-collar workers 
continued to be markedly different from that of blue-collar workers. 
According to the calculations of Soviet researchers based on the 
results of surveys made between 1972 and 1976, the Communist 
Party in France was supported by approximately 36 per cent of in¬ 
dustrial workers and 16 per cent of rank-and-file office workers: the 
equivalent figures relating to support for the Socialists from the two 
groups concerned were 27 and 30 per cent and their support for the 
bourgeois parties was 36 and 54 per cent respectively. In Italy, 46 
per cent of industrial workers supported the Communist Party and 
17 per cent of employees in the retail sector and offices, 26 per cent 
of the industrial workers and 7 per cent of the retail sector and 
office employees supported the Socialists, and finally 28 per cent of 
industrial workers supported the bourgeois parties and 66 per cent 
of the retail sector and office employees. In the FRG, 66 per cent 
of industrial workers voted for the Social Democrats in 1972 and 
50 per cent of the white-collar workers; in Britain, in 1974 53 per 
cent of the workers voted for the Labour Party and 29 per cent of 
the white-collar workers, while the remaining social groups voted 
mainly for the parties of the right. In Spain, the parties of the left 
were supported by 36 per cent of the industrial workers and only 
22 per cent of those employed in the retail sector and offices. 1 

The partial closing of the gap between workers both in and out¬ 
side industry with white-collar workers meant that the latter group 
introduced their attitudes into the working man’s environment. This 
inevitably made itself felt within the labour movement: the broad¬ 
ening of its mass base signified at the same time a certain broaden¬ 
ing of the channels through which petty-bourgeois influence might 
spread. 

The Communist parties as they devoted particular attention to 
work among these strata and sought to draw them into the class 
struggle and develop their consciousness, at the same time never 
lost sight of the fact that the industrial proletariat was the most 
progressive and most militant detachment of the working class and 
that its role was the central one in the labour movement. Only this 
policy created the essential preconditions for the true cohesion of 
the working class on the foundation of a consistent struggle to de¬ 
fend its interests and to enhance the level of its socio-political con¬ 
sciousness. 


1 Workers Voting in the Countries of Western Europe, Moscow, 1980, 
pp. 107, 122, 196, 206, 276, 343, 386, 394 (in Russian). 





254 


CHAPTER 6 


The more varied composition of the working class and the rig e I 
in its intellectual and cultural level were exerting an ever more fa?, 
reaching influence upon the practice and indeed the whole “style” 
of the labour movement’s activity. The masses of the working p 6o , 
pie were becoming more inclined to adopt a rational approach to 
socio-political problems and their independent analysis, to the as¬ 
sessment of political slogans and programmes, starting out not so 
much from whether or not their declared aims were attractive, as 
from the real opportunities and means for their implementation. 

In these conditions purely propaganda methods for winning in¬ 
fluence among the masses became increasingly less effective: what 
mattered was whether programmes of political trends were well sub¬ 
stantiated and how realistic they had proved in practice. The spokes¬ 
men of bourgeois and reformist ideology tried to use these ten¬ 
dencies against revolutionary ideas; they sought to introduce bour¬ 
geois technocratic “rationality” into the consciousness of the masses 
and subordinate the activity of the workers’ organisations to it. 
For the labour movement greater competence, greater realism and 
tangibility in the solutions to economic, social and political prob¬ 
lems were the most urgent questions. Without this provision con¬ 
ditions became increasingly difficult for the organisation of a truly 
mass-scale political movement and the defence of the interests of 
the woking class in the socio-political arena. 

These socio-psychological shifts within the working class of the 
capitalist countries came particularly clearly to the fore after the 
late 60s. Precisely these changes had paved the way for the rapid 
mounting tide of the working-class socio-political activity. In its 
turn the latter gave rise to national crises in a number of coun¬ 
tries that seriously shook up the political stability of capitalism. 
These shifts also made themselves felt in the reaction of the work¬ 
ing class to the economic crisis which struck the capitalist world in 
the mid-70s, revealing the instability of the position of the working 
people and the insecurity of the living standards they had achieved. 
This crisis obliged many of them to give up their former consump¬ 
tion levels and added to the problems and hardships of their day-to- 
day lives. The working masses now had a clearer understanding of 
the unstable nature of the working man’s position in capitalist so¬ 
ciety. While the younger generation of workers suffered most of all 
from the crisis, coming up against it at the very threshold of their 
working life, for many workers of the older generation the crisis of 
the 70s provided as it were an outward sign that their expectations 
would never be fulfilled. After starting out on their working life 
in conditions of mass unemployment and material hardship in 
the critical 30s and naively believing that the “thriving” post-war 
years would last forever, these workers were obliged to acknowledge 





















































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


255 


- the 70s that this optimism had been ill-founded and their hopes 
for a better life had been in vain. 

411 in all, the influence of the economic crisis did not cancel 
out hut, on the contrary, strengthened to a large extent the trends 
of developing class consciousness and demands from the working 
masses that had been emerging before the crisis. The experience of 
the late 60s and early 70s was not forgotten. 

The working class’ heightened awareness of its social dignity and 
strength, and the higher level of its social demands were reflected 
in its reaction to the crisis. Precisely these traits of preceding de¬ 
velopment of mass working-class consciousness explain why, des¬ 
pite the deterioration in the actual conditions of struggle and in a 
situation very different from those which had arisen as a result of 
the crises in the inter-war years, the critical 70s did not lead to any 
sudden decline in the strike movement. In a number of countries, 
a mass-scale struggle against unemployment developed on an un¬ 
precedented scale and in a more intense form than ever before. The 
more active, organised and militant detachments of the working 
class deliberately involved themselves in the struggle against state- 
monopolistic policy directed towards finding a way out of the crisis 
at the expense of the working people. 

The experience of the class struggle during the period of crisis 
confirmed more clearly than ever, that in the mass strata of the 
working class there were now present the socio-psychological pre¬ 
conditions for the campaign for the profound change of the whole 
course of state policy and for the democratisation of the socio-polit¬ 
ical system. The working masses were now paying more and more 
attention to the problem of elaborating democratic programmes to 
counter the effects of the crisis, constituting alternatives to the 
course of SMC. A clearer understanding had been reached by many 
groups of the working people of the link between the current crisis 
phenomena and the militarist tendencies of state-monopolistic pol¬ 
icy. New strata of workers were becoming involved in the move¬ 
ment for detente and disarmament, even including workers from 
the arms industry. Indicative in this respect was the example of the 
shop-stewards at Lucas Aerospace in Britain, who elaborated a plan 
for the reorganisation of their factories for non-military production. 1 

The consequences of the crisis made growing numbers of the work¬ 
ing people aware of the need to intensify the influence of the or¬ 
ganised working class on the policy of the entrepreneurs and the 
state. In the mass workers’ movement in a number of countries this 
Was borne out by the wide popularity of demands that the working 
people and their organisations should participate at all levels in man- 


1 Za rubezhom, No. 31, 1979, p. 10. 






256 


CHAPTER 6 


agement and that the whole socio-political system should be dem¬ 
ocratised. In countries which had freed themselves from the yo^ 
of fascist regimes in the 70s—Portugal, Greece and Spain—the work- 
ing class had become the most active and massive force campaign¬ 
ing for democratic reforms. In France, the majority of the working 
class gave wide support to the Joint Programme of the Left Par¬ 
ties, while the Italian working class continued its unrelenting strug¬ 
gle for democratic reforms, and for changes in the class-based char¬ 
acter of the power structure. 

Yet it is important not to overlook the negative aspects of the 
impact which this crisis had on the mass consciousness of the pro¬ 
letarian strata and those now in the process of proletarianisation. 

Mass-scale redundancies and the deterioration of the economic 
position of the working class made it more difficult for a section of 
the working class to put forward demands that went beyond those 
of a purely material variety. The dissatisfaction of the worker with 
the content and the social conditions of his life has not vanished, 
of course, yet the changed socio-economic situation often tended to 
narrow down the horizons of the less politically aware sections of 
the working people and to confine their interests to the protection of 
the living standards already achieved. Bourgeois policy-makers and 
propagandists made wide use of such moods, propagating the idea 
that at the time of crisis any far-reaching changes in the socio-eco¬ 
nomic sphere might bring in their wake still more deterioration of 
the economic position. The crisis, therefore, increased the hetero¬ 
geneity of the socio-political consciousness of the masses. While 
the crisis led the more advanced and militant section of the masses 
to activate their struggle and broaden their aims, it led, among 
large strata of the working people, to increased uncertainty, hesita¬ 
tion and a fear of change. This disorientating psychological effect 
of the crisis was in considerable measure intensified by the reform¬ 
ist parties, which in a number of cases sought to convince their ad¬ 
herents of the need to tone down their demands and to postpone 
any major changes “till better times”. Their stance, naturally, made 
it harder for the masses to appreciate the real political oppor¬ 
tunities for such changes. Even in those countries, such as France, 
for example, in which the majority of the nation came out in 
favour of a radical, democratic programme, the exacerbation by the 
crisis of the contradiction between a moderately reformist and con¬ 
sistently anti-monopolistic course seriously weakened the case of 
the workers and the democratic forces. This in its turn inevitably 
had a negative effect upon the consciousness of the masses who sup¬ 
ported them. 

In countries where Social Democratic parties occupied the dom¬ 
inant position within the labour movement, particularly where the 
































SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


257 


latter were in power, their obvious inability to cope with crisis phe¬ 
nomena and the fact that they virtually supported the state-mono¬ 
polistic course for dealing with the crisis, spread disillusionment 
with political activity as a whole amongst the masses, and in the 
working class as well. A mood of political passivity and apathy set 
in. This was one of the important socio-psychological preconditions 
for the move to the right, which took place in the political life of 
the number of countries, in which right-wing bourgeois parties sub- 
secpiently came to power. At the same time among some groups 
of working people the spread of such moods created an atmosphere 
of hopelessness and despair enabling ideas of irrational rebellion 
to gain ground. These ideas were propagated by ultra-left, anar¬ 
chistic and also neofascist groupings, the last of which achieved 
this by exploiting “radical” social demagogy as they did so. It was 
made even easier for trends of this kind to spread because the cri¬ 
sis was producing more and more declasse elements, particularly 
among the unemployed and those young people without any expe¬ 
rience of working life and the class struggle. 

The contradictory nature of these trends to be observed in the 
development of workers 1 consciousness in the wake of the crisis was 
not manifested to an equal extent in the labour movement of the 
capitalist countries. In Britain, for example, where the level of or¬ 
ganisation among industrial and office workers was high and where 
for many years there had been a gradual consolidation of the left 
forces in the labour movement and the scale of the demands put 
forward by the unions had been growing up until 1975 roughly, 
the growth of unemployment and other similar phenomena did not 
lead to any falling-off in the fighting spirit and readiness for the 
fray. On the contrary, during the 70s class battles took place on a 
scale that had not been seen for a long time, workers were actively 
fighting against redundancies and unemployment and a movement 
for factory sit-ins and “work-ins” became widespread. Trade union 
membership grew. Later, however, the picture was to change. There 
was a drop in strike activity. The scale of union demands be¬ 
came dramatically more modest. This stemmed to no small extent 
from the fact that the Labour government was in power, which the 
unions and workers did not want to hinder in its “fight against in¬ 
flation”. “Moderate” leaders were now consolidating their positions 
in a number of trade unions. The policies pursued by the Labour 
Party did not provide any real prospects for improvement in the 
position of the working people, and this tended to undermine their 
militant spirit. According to some figures, at the 1979 election 
which ended in victory for the Conservatives, the latter party had 
succeeded in somewhat broadening its electoral base within the 
working class. 


17-0515 








258 


CHAPTER 6 


Similar processes were to be observed in the FRG, albeit devek 
oping at a different level. In that country, in which the readiness 
of a considerable section of the working class to engage in struggi e 
had been relatively low before as well, the crisis inhibited the 
socio-political activity of the masses to a greater extent. As point- 
ed out by the West German Communists: “The workers generate 
a conciliatory mood, uncertainty and insecurity, and dampen soli, 
darity. They are less willing to advance new demands and will take 
collective action only, as a rule, when pushed to defend already 
conquered ground.” 1 

The impact of the crisis on the political consciousness of the work¬ 
ers stemmed not only from the initial level of that consciousness 
but also from the nature of the leadership in the labour movement 
in each specific country. In Italy, for example, with its powerful 
Communist Party and militant trade unions, which as early as the 
60s had tried to take up the struggle for the immediate demands 
of the workers in their fight for social change, the climate of class 
conflict did not cool down during the crisis period. In 1975, the 
scale of the strike movement was greater than it had been the year 
before. 

Yet despite all this, the crisis made it hard to mobilise forces, to 
select suitable goals and secure interaction between the various de¬ 
tachments of the Italian labour movement. Trends emerged in the 
consciousness of certain strata of the working people, against which 
the leadership of the United Federation of Trade Unions had to 
wage a fierce struggle. One of these was the purely defensive inter¬ 
pretation of the slogan calling for fuller employment, which reduced 
it to no more than opposition to redundancies and factory clo¬ 
sures, which threatened to split the ranks of the workers and re¬ 
duce their activity to no more than resistance to the actions of the 
employers. The workers did not always succeed in linking their 
struggle against unemployment with broader, more constructive de¬ 
mands—for the reorganisation of the production system, for the 
provision of full employment, the introduction of control over in¬ 
vestment and the stimulation of development in the backward 
South. Another danger also present at this time was that of a split 
between the struggle of those still in employment and that of the 
unemployed. Among the categories of workers who came under the 
influence of autonomous trade unions, trends towards an inward¬ 
looking corporate approach began to develop. Without taking into 
account the overall strategy of the labour movement, these predom¬ 
inantly highly paid groups of Italian white-collar workers made 


1 Josef Schleifstein, Johannes H. von Heiseler, “Workers’ Class Conscious¬ 
ness: Level and Trends”, in World Marxist Review, No. 12, 1975. p. 37. 

























SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WORKING CLASS 


259 


pX? o-geratecily high wage claims. In this way they played into the 
hands of bourgeois propaganda, which represented the “insatiable” 
appetite of the unions as the main cause of inflation. 

Yet these and other centrifugal trends were operating against a 
background of high-level activity and impressive cohesion of the 
bulk of the working class, at a time when progress was being achieved 
in the organisation of the unemployed from the South, who 
w ere being drawn into the struggle, when there was overall growth 
of the prestige and influence of the United Federation of Trade 
Unions, to whose voice the government was obliged to listen dur¬ 
ing the time of crisis. The crisis made the working class of Italy 
even more determined not to reconcile itself any more to the bla¬ 
tant vices of the existing social system, and the constructive course 
of the labour movement, directed towards the achievement of goals 
that would affect that nation as a whole, helped once again to close 
the gap between its progressive forces and the non-proletarian strata 
of the population. 

For the consciousness of the modern working class in the capital¬ 
ist countries to develop, it is important that there should be a heigh¬ 
tened awareness of the need for a realistic economic and political 
alternative to state-monopolistic domination. When the organised 
labour movement proves, from the ideological and political angle, 
capable of elaborating such an alternative, its struggle against the 
consequences of the economic crisis leads to further advances in the 
militant consciousness of the masses. On the other hand, if the work¬ 
ers’ mass organisations lack clear, consistently class-based positions 
on the key issues connected with finding a way out of the crisis, this 
tends to bring out the negative features in mass consciousness and 
to foster socio-political passivity and apathy among certain strata 
of the working people. Even in those situations, however, the level 
of the working people’s awareness of their own needs and interests 
achieved earlier and their experience create considerable precondi¬ 
tions for the consolidation of militant class-based trends within the 
labour movement. 

On the whole, changes in proletarian consciousness between 1950 
and 1980 found expression in the development of a number of im¬ 
portant new aspects of the mentality of the working class. On the 
one hand, the working class was more aware of its social strength. 
This awareness was heightened by experience of victorious socialist 
revolutions, the growing power and organisational strength of the 
labour movement and of its numerous achievements in the class 
struggle. This period saw the gradual overcoming by the workers 
of their narrow and sectarian approach, of their inability to link 
problems of class or intra-class groups with the issues or prospects 
of social development as a whole. Finally there was a rise in the 


17* 






260 


CHAPTER 6 


cultural and intellectual levels of the working masses and of then- 
capacity for rational appreciation of social reality. 

On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that the overall 
growth of the proletariat’s social needs was by no means always re- 
fleeted in its appreciation of the corresponding interests and goals 
of its own class in the socio-political arena. This fact was widely 
exploited by bourgeois ideologists and in the social tactics of the 
ruling class, aimed at channelling this growth of needs along a 
path of individualistic narrow conceptions and values, in order to 
make the proletariat’s class consciousness disintegrated. 

From the above it is clear that the path necessary now, if the 
present contradictions within the consciousness of the working class 
in the capitalist countries are to be overcome, lies through the reali¬ 
sation by the working masses of the real possibilities for fundamen¬ 
tally restructuring society in accordance with those aspirations which 
characterise the present level of its psychological and intellectual 
development. These possibilities are substantiated by Marxism-Le¬ 
ninism and are borne out by the experience of real socialism, of the 
struggle by the labour movement to achieve concrete aims express¬ 
ing the needs of the working people. 







































Part Three 


labour movement upsurge 

and CAPITALISM’S WORSENING 
GENERAL CRISIS 







Chapter 7 

THE LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S DEEPENING 

SOCIAL CONTRADICTIONS 


The development of the labour movement in the period under con¬ 
sideration depended on the aggregate of international and domestic 
conditions forming in the industrially-advanced capitalist nations. 
It was also linked with the processes occurring in the position and 
the consciousness of the working class, examined in preceding sec¬ 
tions of the present volume and it was affected by those specific 
forms that capitalism’s major class antagonism took from the 50s 
through the 70s. 

The paramount conditions of the fresh exacerbation in internal 
contradictions of capitalism were the crisis in its economic, social 
and political strategy, and the mounting power and activity of forces 
clamouring for a change in society. The deep-seated contradic¬ 
tions building up behind the facade of state-monopoly “regulation” 
of economic and social affairs sharply burst through to the surface 
since the late 60s, causing a leap-like increase in capitalist society’s 
economic and political instability which grew into the economic 
crisis of the 70s. 

This pattern of capitalist crisis exerts an effect on the nature of 
the tasks objectively confronting the labour movement. It is appar¬ 
ent, first, in the content of those issues which social life thrusts 
into the foreground and which acquire urgent significance for the 
working class. Second, it is evident in the influence of the social 
strategy and tactics of the ruling class on the evolution of the la¬ 
bour movement. Finally, it is manifest in the fact that the labour 
movement is itself an active subject in the development of class 
contradictions of capitalism; the results of its own activity and the 
gains it has made constantly alter the objective conditions of that 
activity and the nature of problems facing the movement. 








264 


CHAPTER 7 


SOCIO-ECONOMIC ISSUES OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT 

1950-1980 

In the circumstances of state-monopoly capitalism the working-class 
struggle for living standards is compounded by the fact that besides 
the direct resistance by capitalists it comes up against the much 
more refined tactics employed by the bourgeois state. Appreciating 
the inevitability of certain concessions to workers’ economic dem¬ 
ands, the ruling circles have banked on centralised control and a 
limited growth of their living standards capable of ensuring the 
interests of capitalist accumulation and profit-making. Their stra¬ 
tegy was aimed at undermining the workers’ fight to safeguard their 
interests. It brought with it the danger of demolishing the very 
basis of the labour movement, of turning the working class into a 
passive and helpless object of state-monopoly policy. 

In the new circumstances, the labour movement was no longer 
able to measure success only by progress in the workers’ material 
and social situation. Of mounting importance was the question of 
whether the yardstick of that progress depended on authoritarian 
state-monopoly control or on the pressure of the organised working 
class in spite of the aggregate capitalist. 

During the 50s and 60s that issue evinced the most acute conflict 
over attempts by governing circles to restrict workers’ living stan¬ 
dards by an “incomes policy”. In foiling the incomes policy, the 
working class of several countries affirmed its right to independent 
action in defence of its interests. Yet under pressure from the 
economic crisis of the mid-70s, state-monopoly capitalism once again 
attempted to return to the incomes policy, endeavouring to under¬ 
mine the workers’ economic struggle through tying trade unions 
to all manner of “social contracts” and “concerted actions”, and in¬ 
troducing the anti-democratic “neocorporale” practice of adopting 
decisions on living standard problems. 

The gap between workers’ living conditions and the opportunities 
in this respect resulting from technological and economic progress 
had become in the 60s a typical feature of the proletariat’s socio¬ 
economic status. Of course, that gap had existed hitherto, but as 
long as the great bulk of working people had been directly threat¬ 
ened with hunger and poverty (as bad often happened in the period 
between the two world wars and in the immediate post-war years), 
it was less important than the lack of the elementary minimum of 
living standard. Only when the trend to a better economic situation 
had acquired a relatively stable character, when many workers had 
gained access in one way or another to an average consumption 
level, did the issue of workers’ share in created wealth come to the 
fore. From the 50s through the 70s the issue was producing an in- 

























LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


265 


creasingly sharp reaction amongst the working class and was more 
an( l more insistently being put forward by the mass labour move¬ 
ment- 

As the working class made more economic gains, the issue of its 
living standards and role in production was coming increasingly to 
ihe fore, and the insufficiency of what had been achieved in that 
area was becoming ever more apparent. Under pressure from the 
ne w alignment of forces, bourgeois society was forced to recognise 
the working class 1 right to social guarantees of its economic status. 
But neither formal recognition, nor growth in the range and size 
of social benefits solved the problem of material security for a sub¬ 
stantial number of workers, their uncertainty about the future. As 
before, one of the most onerous manifestations of the lack of ma¬ 
terial security was unemployment, the threat of losing one’s job or 
depreciation of one’s skills. Inflation, the spiralling cost of living, 
was another constant factor of the 70s. 

In such circumstances, guaranteed employment and defence of 
living standards became prime targets in the working-class struggle; 
it was increasingly obvious that that struggle had to be closely 
linked with the overall movement to expand the working people’s 
socio-economic rights. 

The greater role of the working class in production and society in 
social and legal terms substantially enhanced the importance of 
collective agreement in relations between employers and workers. 
Promotion of that regulation meant, on the one hand, the collective 
agreement system being extended to a greater number of industries 
and firms. It was recognised in several instances by special legisla¬ 
tive acts (in France in 1950, Belgium in 1968, West Germany in 
1949 and Italy in 1959), Collective agreements of one form or an¬ 
other embraced 87.5 per cent of British blue-collar workers and 
57.1 per cent of white-collar workers in the mid-60s, 1 and some 
18 million of the US work force by 1970, including some 32 per 
cent of private sector employees. 2 

On the other hand, collective agreement regulation in some coun¬ 
tries began to exceed the bounds of wage and working time issues, 
covering an ever wider range of obligations by employers on working 
conditions, procedures for hiring and sacking labour, social security, 
worker training, and so on. The 1966-1967 strike movement in Italy, 
for example, led to the signing of collective agreements in several 
industries envisaging the obligation by employers to inform unions 
of changes in technology and labour organisation, to the setting up 


1 Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations 1965- 
1968, London, 1968, p. 10. 

2 See Industrial and Labour Relations Review, No. 3, 1970, p. 327. 









266 


CHAPTER 7 


of joint committees at factories for sorting out conflicts over piece¬ 
work payments, rating the skills and determining the working con¬ 
ditions in harmful jobs. In the United States, a number of unions 
succeeded in the 1940s and 1950s in having included in collective 
agreements clauses on pensions and health insurance for the work¬ 
ers. 

The expansion in a number of countries (Britain one of them) of 
contracts signed at company and enterprise level (together with indus¬ 
trial agreements) was of considerable importance in extending the 
scope of collective agreements and in involving all workers more 
actively in the fight for their interests. 

Collective agreements enable workers regularly to get a revi¬ 
sion of labour payment and other aspects of their status in line with 
changed circumstances (for example, when the cost of living rises). 
It replaces the old individual “capitalist-worker” relations, facilitat¬ 
ing a split in the work collective, by relations between capitalists 
and that collective, the workers of an entire industry or area, their 
trade union organisations. So collective agreements not only go 
some way to consolidating workers’ economic status, they also help 
promote proletarian collectivism, organisation and greater class 
awareness. By rendering the class struggle a systematic character, they 
are capable of promoting militancy of the masses. It is not fortui¬ 
tous that in several capitalist states the renewal of collective agree¬ 
ments becomes the cause of most acute and broad class conflicts. 

However, there were also other implications of the collective agree¬ 
ment practice for the labour movement. Employers and the state 
stepped up attempts to turn collective agreement into an instrument 
of class reconciliation, to use it to attune workers and their organisa¬ 
tions to the aims of the capitalist enterprise. The process of decen¬ 
tralisation of collective agreements and extension of their content 
was viewed by capitalist management as a means of imposing fresh 
obligations on workers in relation to the firm, inculcating in them 
an interest in the results of the firm’s activity. Thus, in the words 
of the Italian economist Giuseppe Bianchi, “collective agreements 
are more and more becoming a means of overcoming economic con¬ 
tradictions and conflicts affecting distribution of power”. 1 

One of the most difficult issues facing the labour movement over 
development of collective agreement relations has been defence of 
the right to strike. In some countries (like West Germany and Can¬ 
ada) , the existing legal practice or legislation have compelled the 
unions to restrain from striking during the lifetime of the agree¬ 
ments. In several countries, a clause to this effect is included in 
many collective agreements. That practice became particularly wide- 


1 Giuseppe Bianchi, Sindacati e impresa, Milan, 1969, p. 152. 






























LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


267 


spread with the development of agreements envisaging higher pro¬ 
ductivity, the firm’s better economic performance, etc. From the late 
60s measures were being prepared in Britain for banning “unof¬ 
ficial” (i.e. unapproved by central union leadership) strikes and for 
stricter regulation of strike conflicts (introduction of a month-long 
“cooling-off” period for some types of disputes, etc.). The Royal 
Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations 1 and the 
Labour Government’s White paper “In Place of Strife” (1969) both 
formulated such proposals. In France, with the consent of reformist 
trade unions, many agreements at enterprises included a clause on 
refraining from strikes during the collective agreement’s lifetime 
or on a “cooling-off period”. From the late 60s and early 70s this 
clause became a compulsory element in the new type of collective 
agreement—the so-called “progress contracts” in which higher 
wages and shorter working time were tied to the firm’s performance. 

The evolution of collective agreement relations, therefore, has 
with fresh urgency brought the labour movement up against the 
problem of whether such agreements with the bourgeoisie could be 
possible as a matter of principle, insofar as they tied workers to the 
objectives of capitalist enterprises and thereby in one way or an¬ 
other blunted their militant initiative, their right to independent 
defence of their interests. Specifically, these tactics were expressed 
in collective agreements including clauses on paying workers bon¬ 
uses as “profit-sharing” (USA and France), and particularly in the 
so-called “productivity agreements” that became widespread during 
the 60s in the USA, Britain, France and other capitalist countries. 
That form of agreement made higher wages and social benefits de¬ 
pendent upon higher productivity, which enabled administration to 
push through measures to raise productivity with union accord and 
gave it more leeway in determining the forms of work organisation, 
distributing jobs, worsening working conditions (by speed-up, multi¬ 
shift work, etc.), and, finally, sacking workers under the pretext of 
increasing production efficiency. In many cases productivity agree¬ 
ments led to mass redundancies (for instance, the agreement signed 
in 1970 in the British steel industry envisaged work force reduction 
of 40 per cent by 1975). 

The productivity agreements became quite widespread, which 
indicated the danger they posed to the labour movement. In Britain, 
for example, they covered about a quarter of all the work force by 
late 1971. 2 In France, where the GGT unions invariably refused 
to sign such agreements, they had nonetheless been signed with re- 


1 Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Association 1965- 
1968, p. 267. 

2 Morning Star, October 14, 1971. 






268 


CHAPTER 7 


formist unions since 1955—first at the Renault works 1 and subse. 
quently at other large-scale factories. 

By contrast with the USA, where extension of workers’ social 
rights occurred mainly within the framework of collective agree¬ 
ment regulation, legislation played a much greater part in this 
process in Western Europe. After World War II, laws were passed 
in the USA on government insurance in the event of full disability 
or loss of breadwinner, and insurance for old age was somewhat 
extended; during the 60s the USA introduced laws on temporary 
disability, industrial accidents, unemployment and some other in¬ 
surance schemes. But the scale of such legislation was, on the 
whole, much narrower than that in Western Europe. In Europe, 
while the collective agreements specified mainly the wage level and 
other concrete aspects of labour relations typical of the given in¬ 
dustry or enterprise, the most common standards regulating work¬ 
ers’ economic status, the rights of their organisations, and social 
security were largely an object of state policy and consequently 
acted as social guarantees. As historical experience shows, this form 
of regulation of workers’ economic status corresponds more to the 
working class’ direct interests and provides greater room for develop¬ 
ing its class struggle than merely collective agreement regulation. 
The rights won on a national scale extend to the whole mass of 
workers, not only to that part which is covered by collective agree¬ 
ments and possesses the opportunities for attaining better employ¬ 
ment terms. 

Legislative regulation of the socio-economic status of the working 
class enhances its consolidation and the growth of its economic into 
political struggle, bringing the labour movement directly into 
conflict with the capitalist state. Thus, an important demand of 
the labour movement in several countries became the establishment 
on a nationwide scale of a compulsory minimum wage. Although 
such a minimum is nearly always used to hold down wages at an 
extremely low level, its establishment nevertheless means recognition 
of social standards of work payment irrespective of the economic 
situation and the relationship between demand and supply of labour. 

A pensions and benefits system under state-monopoly capitalism 
has become a paramount aim of the working class’ socio-economic 
struggle, directly bringing it into the limelight of national politics. 
In most capitalist countries that system took shape after the war. 
But despite the successes achieved in the 50s and 60s, its develop¬ 
ment in the capitalist world was generally far from the level neces¬ 
sary to maintaining normal living conditions. Even in the Swedish 
pension security system, reckoned to be the most progressive within 


1 Regie Nationale des Usines Renault. Accord d'entreprise, Paris, 1955. 






































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


269 


the capitalist world, the size of old-age pensions was no more than 
60-65 per cent of former wages, and they were only obtainable after 
the age of 67. In France, the pension age was 65, and the size was 
no more than 40 per cent of wages. In the USA, old-age pension 
levels were normally between 20 and 40 per cent of the wages. 
Pensions and other benefits increasingly suffered from inflation, 
inasmuch as their increase regularly lagged behind the rising cost 
of living. Millions of aged workers in most capitalist states were 
doomed to a miserly, semi-starvation existence. 

The historical experience of the socio-economic struggle of the 
working class has convincingly demonstrated the close interrelation 
and intermingling of various aspects and manifestations of capital¬ 
ist exploitation. State-monopoly capitalism has considerably expand¬ 
ed and improved the exploitation system, making it more flexible, 
capable of rapidly adapting itself to changing conditions, including 
also to certain gains made by the labour movement. That has ena¬ 
bled the ruling class, when retreating in one area, to go onto the 
offensive in another. Thus, concessions in the sphere of wages and 
social security are compensated by higher prices, increasing inten¬ 
sity of work and measures to concentrate and rationalise production 
leading to unemployment; the monopoly control of consumer de¬ 
mand, the artificial stimulation of consumption through advertising, 
the mass media and the system of consumer credit all effectively 
supplement exploitation in production and increase the instability 
of workers 1 economic status. 

Socio-economic regulation on the state level makes it possible to 
tilt the balance of forces formed in the class struggle at factories 
and in industries towards monopoly interests: this is done both 
through redistribution of the national income via taxation, by meas¬ 
ures to hamper wage rises and by direct government interference 
in class conflicts. 

All these characteristics of capitalist exploitation under state- 
monopoly capitalism were evident with particular force during the 
economic crisis of the 70s. 

The crisis considerably exacerbated problems of the working class 1 
socio-economic situation. Already at the start of the decade, under 
the impact of 1969-1971 crisis phenomena, the bulk of people in 
capitalist states, and first and foremost blue- and white-collar work¬ 
ers, lived in a climate of mounting uncertainty about the future and 
the threat of a fresh worsening in the economic situation. During 
those years the rate of economic growth fell overall in the capitalist 
world: industrial output in the industrially-advanced capitalist states 
increased in 1970 by only 2 per cent, by contrast with 7.9 per 
cent in 1968. In the USA, in Italy, Sweden and some other West 
European countries there was not only a fall in the rate, but an ab- 





270 


CHAPTER 7 


solute reduction of industrial output (by 4.1 per cent in the USA 
in 1970 as compared with 1969). From mid-73, after the shortest 
lived period of revival and upswing in post-war capitalist history, 
a fresh fall in industrial growth rates began everywhere, and in 
1974 industrial output fell in absolute terms in a number of coun¬ 
tries. 

The falling output and rising unemployment combined with ca¬ 
tastrophic inflation represented a major distinguishing feature of the 
crisis of the 70s, which had a disastrous effect on the condition of 
the working people. 

Another specific feature of the economic disasters of the 70s 
was that the underlying crisis of general overproduction was com¬ 
plemented by structural crises: in energy, raw materials, food and 
currency. These phenomena were new forms of exacerbation of 
capitalism’s basic contradiction, above all in international economic 
relations and division of labour. At the same time they reflected 
the changing relationship between imperialism and the developing 
countries, with the latter no longer reconciled to uncontrolled monop¬ 
oly exploitation of their raw material resources. The raising of oil 
prices and other measures taken by developing countries to protect 
their economic interests undermined a prop of the economic me¬ 
chanism of state-monopoly capitalism and its policy of economic 
growth—the unlimited use of cheap raw material. Naturally enough, 
the monopolies transferred the rising costs of production on to the 
working people. 

The worsening contradictions in the world capitalist economy and 
the currency crisis further intensified the disproportions of the cap¬ 
italist economy, its chaotic nature and instability. They demonstrat¬ 
ed with particular force the futility of state-monopoly methods for 
putting the capitalist house in order. Operating as factors in inten¬ 
sifying inflation and the shortage of several mass consumer goods 
and services, unprecedented in peacetime, these crises were a fresh 
heavy blow to the workers’ vital interests. 

In crisis conditions there was a marked politicisation of problems 
of the workers’ economic situation. While, on the one hand, their 
living standards were undermined by the spontaneous crisis pro¬ 
cesses, on the other, they came under mounting pressure from the 
state-monopoly power. 

The crisis revealed the precariousness of the gains the labour 
movement attained in fighting for its direct socio-economic interests. 
The insufficiency of isolated struggle for various specific socio-eco¬ 
nomic goals—for example, for higher wages, shorter working hours, 
and various partial reforms—became clearer than ever. The labour 
movement was faced with the task of expanding the campaign front 
so as to make irrevocable every gain achieved. That brought the 











































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


271 


movement to the problem of intervening in the mechanism of capi¬ 
talist exploitation, affecting it both at enterprise and industry level, 
and at the level of the national economy and the government’s so¬ 
cio-economic policy (and in many cases, particularly in the coun¬ 
tries of Western Europe, on an international scale too). 

In the mid-60s and onwards, the working class of many European 
capitalist countries began more and more frequently to advance 
slogans of so-called “economic democracy”—i.e. workers’ control 
and participation in management. 

“Economic democracy” means mainly extending the rights of 
trade unions and worker representation bodies at enterprises, their 
participation in dealing with issues of capital investment, hiring and 
sacking, wage rates, bonuses, conveyor speed, the firm’s social poli¬ 
cy, and so on. That was powerfully dictated by the vital interests 
of the working class, its mounting needs, by the effect that state- 
monopoly development and the scientific and technological revolution 
were having on its position. The movement for workers’ control and 
participation in management plays a major role in the socio-econom¬ 
ic struggle developing into a campaign for democracy—i.e. a polit¬ 
ical struggle. At the same time it is formal participation in mana¬ 
gement that is most used by the bourgeoisie in a bid to smother the 
class approach in the activity of labour organisations. 

The post-WW II democratic upsurge brought labour substantial 
gains in the rights of participation in management. In the imme¬ 
diate post-war years several West European countries passed laws 
or reached a consensus on setting up standing worker representation 
bodies or joint worker-management councils at factories. Their func¬ 
tions greatly differed from country to country, but everywhere they 
enjoyed certain, though rather limited, rights to represent workers’ 
interests in various sectors of factory management and to supervise 
the activity of the administration in those sectors. But what was 
fundamentally important was the very recognition of that right, 
since it was a considerable concession wrenched by the workers 
from the ruling class. 

All the same, in all the countries in which there existed worker 
representation bodies, both legislation and management practice pre¬ 
vented their interference in the main issues of the firm’s economic 
activity. At best they succeeded only in exercising the right to eco¬ 
nomic information and “expressing their opinion”. In fact they 
took part in management only of the social and everyday affairs 
of the enterprise (organising workers’ catering, children’s nurseries, 
etc.). The labour movement’s demands for control of the firm’s 
economic policy ran up against particularly stubborn resistance from 
the bourgeoisie, which saw them as an attack on the “hallowed 
right” of private ownership. As the National Council of French Em- 






272 


CHAPTER 7 


ployers put it in 1965, “in the sphere of management of the enter¬ 
prises authority cannot be shared". 1 

Even with their rights inevitably limited under capitalist condi¬ 
tions, the worker representation bodies might well have become a 
salient instrument of class struggle and development of class aware¬ 
ness among the bulk of workers. But they were capable of playing 
such a part only in the event of their activity being guided by mili¬ 
tant proletarian organisations taking a consistently class position. 
Where that was absent, they almost always turned into a simple 
appendage of entrepreneurial power. Being compelled, under pres¬ 
sure from the working class, to recognise the right to worker re¬ 
presentation in management, the bourgeoisie of a number of states 
very soon appreciated all the benefits that could accrue from inte¬ 
grating the worker representation agencies into their own system of 
power, from turning them into a screen of class rule. The principle 
of “cooperation” by these bodies with factory administration and 
restrictions on their ties with class organisations (for example, un¬ 
der the pretext of compulsory maintenance of industrial secrets or 
even non-participation in class conflicts) was stipulated in the legis¬ 
lation of some countries (West Germany, Sweden, etc.). In order 
to implement these principles intensified influence was exerted on 
worker representatives through direct bribery and psychological 
brainwashing. 

In West Germany, where worker representatives on managerial 
bodies receive salaries that are immense by comparison with rank- 
and-file workers, there were frequent instances in the 50s and early 
60s when they opposed the unions during class conflicts and threw 
in their lot with factory management. Factory committees came into 
being in Sweden in 1946, and production committees followed in 
1966 with consultative functions; by agreement between unions and 
the employers 1 association they, on the one hand, supervised obser¬ 
vance of work condition standards and, on the other, encouraged 
higher production efficiency and observance of labour discipline, 
keeping secret the economic information presented to them. 

Naturally enough, in countries where adverse, conciliatory trends 
were particularly evident in the activities of worker representation 
bodies, there were many cases of their militant, class-conscious 
members using these bodies to safeguard the workers’ interests. 
Nonetheless, the weakness of those agencies, rooted in opportunist 
positions of trade union and social democratic leadership, in that 
they were used for class collaboration, was becoming more and more 
obvious. As a result they became discredited among ordinary peo¬ 
ple: surveys carried out in the 60s in West Germany, Sweden and 


t 


1 Quoted from: World Marxist Review, No. 9, 1966, p. 12. 





































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


273 


elsewhere invariably showed that rank-and-file workers were large¬ 
ly indifferent to such a purely formal representation of their inter¬ 
ests. 

That by no means signified, however, that the economy democra¬ 
cy question was no longer a live issue. On the contrary, during the 
60s and 70s its importance grew, especially with mounting work¬ 
ing-class resistance to capitalist arbitrary action on the organisation 
of work at the enterprise. The workers endeavoured to rely on the 
agencies that represented them so as to prevent changes in the 
technology, resulting from the scientific and technological revolu¬ 
tion, from being used to the detriment of the workers. 

In the conditions of state-monopoly capitalism, decisions on spe¬ 
cific issues concerning the workers’ situation emanated more and 
more from state agencies of socio-economic control. Experience of 
the fight for socio-economic objectives led the labour movement to 
demand participation in tackling the questions associated with the 
state’s economic policy—on capital investment orientation, credit 
policy, price policy and development of the state sector. 

Defence of workers’ interests dictated the need for a sharp inten¬ 
sification of influence over the activity of agencies that elaborated 
and carried out national socio-economic policy. This gave rise to the 
struggle for democratic nationalisation and democratic planning, 
which was gaining increasing popularity. With the development of 
European economic integration, the question of the organised work¬ 
ing class also affecting the activity of international agencies of the 
EEC acquired a growing urgency. 

Thus, the objective situation, the consolidation and manoeuvring 
of the class opponent confronted the labour movement with qualita¬ 
tively new tasks. These tasks were vitally important for successful 
defence of the immediate and long-term socio-economic interests of 
the proletariat, as well as for the protection of its gains. 

THE WORKING CLASS AND INTENSIFIED SOCIAL 
AND POLITICAL CONTRADICTIONS OF CAPITALISM 

The parallel development of crises in the economy and in the so¬ 
cio-political sphere is a distinctive feature of capitalism’s intensify¬ 
ing contradictions at the third stage of its general crisis. What 
marks it out from the 20s and 30s is that the sharp growth in so¬ 
cio-political instability is not everywhere bound up with an econom¬ 
ic crisis. The worsening of several social problems, representing 
one of the most typical aspects of that process, was not averted by 
economic growth; moreover, it was to a large extent a result of the 
latter. Brought in by the scientific and technological revolution, the 
growth was in its goals, scope and trends determined by the laws 

18—0515 






274 


CHAPTER 7 


of the capitalist mode of production. Its effect on the sphere of 
consumption amounted mainly to offering those goods and serviced 
which created the most beneficial conditions for capitalist profit* 
making in production and sales. Those conditions existed above all I 
in those sectors where scientific and technological progress and oth, 
er factors (particularly neocolonialist exploitation of resources in the 
developing countries) gave the best chance to reduce production costs. 

It was into sectors like production of everyday items and house¬ 
hold comfort articles, synthetic clothing and consumer services, 
etc., that capital above all tended to flow, while the demand for 
their production was especially intensively whipped up by capital¬ 
ist advertising. Using the powerful means of psychological mani¬ 
pulation, the modern mass media, capitalist business was able much 
more widely than ever before to apply the mechanism of “prestige 
consumption” by which a particular make of car or suit of clothes 
serves as an indicator of the social status of their owner. As a re¬ 
sult, the formation of artificial needs, about which Marx had spoken 
and which is inherent in capitalism, substantially increased and 
took on a mass character. 

Things were different with those consumer products whose sale at 
prices within range of the populace were at variance with the in¬ 
terests of rapid profit-making. Such a situation is typical of all 
those sectors of material production and service spheres in which 
costs of production are relatively high or show a tendency to grow. 
Prices of their output grew particularly quickly, and its accessibility 
lagging increasingly behind people’s needs was a sharp contrast to 
the picture of abundance purportedly achieved in “consumer so¬ 
ciety.” 

A vivid example of such disproportion is housing for workers and 
the situation in health care in advanced capitalist countries. 

Changes in the content of work and skills, engendered by the 
scientific and technological revolution, and the overall growth in 
mass cultural and intellectual requirements brought the problems 
of education to the forefront of economic and social affairs. Despite 
considerable growth in secondary (general and vocational) and high¬ 
er education in capitalist countries, there was an increasing gap 
between opportunities and requirements. Complete secondary school¬ 
ing by the end of the 60s was out of reach of many young people. 
In Western Europe only a minority of young men and women were 
able to complete their secondary education (27 per cent in France, 
8.4 per cent in West Germany, 15 per cent in Sweden, 30.6 per 
cent in Belgium, 18.1 per cent in Italy in corresponding age 
groups). 1 At all levels of education, and especially higer, social 

1 UNESCO. Factual Background Document on Access to Higher Education 
in Europe, Paris, 1967, p. 13. 


















LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


275 


barriers remained, sharply restricting accessibility to young people 
from a proletarian background. In the developed capitalist states of 
Europe in the 60s workers 1 children made up between 5 and 25 
per cent of students in higher education, and some 27 per cent in 
(he USA. What is more, higher educational institutions, providing 
the fullest education and opening the way to highly-paid creative or 
leading work, wholly preserved their nature of socially privileged 
establishments and were practically closed to workers’ children. 

With the acceleration of scientific and technological progress, the 
problem of lack of conformity of the education system to economic 
needs and the labour market intensified. In a number of capitalist 
countries, as a consequence of a shortage of allocations, the curri¬ 
cula and training methods in secondary and higher education were 
restructured in no way sufficiently to adapt them to production 
needs. In those circumstances the growing stream of school- and 
college-leavers was largely chaotic; in some spheres the shortage 
of specialists grew worse, in others there was an overproduction of 
them (especially in the humanities). 

At the same time another trend is apparent: the growing subor¬ 
dination of education, particularly technical, to the economic inter¬ 
ests of monopolies led to a narrowing of specialisation; thereby the 
volume of knowledge being obtained sharply restricted opportunities 
for professional mobility, although the need for job changes during 
one’s working life was more and more urgently being dictated by 
technological progress. Thus, the situation in education had an 
acutely adverse effect on problems of employment and the vocational 
prospects of wide social strata, on the security of their future. With 
the mounting economic difficulties and overall unemployment, such 
problems acquired an increasingly complex and dramatic character. 

Capitalism’s inability to resolve the problems engendered by eco¬ 
nomic and social development stemming from the scientific and 
technological revolution became increasingly manifest in most di¬ 
verse areas. Contradictions of capitalist urbanisation had a dire 
effect on the everyday living conditions of workers. The crisis of 
the capitalist city, becoming in the late 60s one of the most pain¬ 
ful social problems, was a complicated phenomenon combining cha¬ 
otic urban building, the saturation of cities with individual car tran¬ 
sport, noise reaching health-hazardous levels, the inadequate hous¬ 
ing for the poorest sections of the populace, the overall air pollu¬ 
tion, neglected nature of the urban economy and the growing crime 
rate. With the uncontrolled growth of cities, any elementary pro¬ 
cedure for putting things right required planning in urbanisation 
and appropriate funding. However, private ownership of land and 
land speculation, the class nature of taxation and, in several coun¬ 
tries, the outflow from the big cities to healthier suburbs by the 


18 * 







276 


CHAPTER 7 


wealthier groups, all combined to hamper implementation of those 
sorts of measures. That was a vicious circle which led to a mount, 
ing deficit in urban budgets and to a progressive worsening of fi v , 
ing conditions in the cities. 

The worsening transport problem was particularly felt by urban- 
dwellers in the 60s and 70s. The capitalist economy, oriented on 
making huge profits out of the mass production of individual cars, 
had for decades neglected the development of public transport. That 
resulted in mounting difficulties for the population due to conges¬ 
tion of transport arteries, unproductive time-wasting in going to 
work and leisure centres and, thereby, increasing fatigue. In many 
instances the travelling nullified effectively any reduction in the 
work-day that had been obtained over several decades. The situa¬ 
tion became even more dramatic with the exceedingly sharp, even 
against the background of overall price rises, increase in transport 
fares and, ever since the energy crisis, the fast-rising petrol costs 
for individual cars. 

During the 60s and 70s the worsening ecological problem became 
one of the major factors intensifying capitalism’s crisis state. Un¬ 
der the impact of the scientific and technological revolution, the 
scale of rapacious exploitation by capitalist production of the en¬ 
vironment sharply increased. The loss of irreplaceable natural re¬ 
sources and damage to the ecological balance are creating a very 
real threat to the very basis of human life on earth. That is appa¬ 
rent from the truly catastrophic dimensions of air and water pollu¬ 
tion by industrial waste, the destruction of natural scenery, and the 
energy, raw material and food crises. 

For the working class, especially for the least provided for, exa¬ 
cerbation of the ecological problem means a direct worsening in its 
living conditions. When linked to the still unresolved problems of 
housing, urban life and transport, that problem acquired a particu¬ 
larly tragic nature in the overcrowded workers’ quarters of the big 
cities and industrial areas. For example, in large cities of the USA, 
within areas with predominantly proletarian population the extent 
of air pollution is 3-4 times that in bourgeois districts. 1 In the late 
60s and early 70s there were annually about half a million cases 
of toxic poisoning. Furthermore, the industrial proletariat is exposed 
to various harmful substances at work. In addition, the standard 
of living of large groups of workers sharply restricts access to re¬ 
creation in healthy areas enjoyed by the wealthy classes. So for 
wide sections of the working class the ecological problem increas¬ 
ingly became a serious issue for their life and health, and for the 


1 Paul P. Craig and Edward Berlin, “The Air of Poverty”, Environment, 
June 1971, Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 9. 



































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


277 


future of their children. To avert further poisoning of the atmosphere, 
I fivers and seas, diminishing soil fertility and depletion of nat¬ 
ural resources, environmental protection and conservation became 
an urgent need for the whole of society,, particularly acute for the 
working class. 

The ecological problem, just like the energy and raw-material 
problems, is among those global issues that affect the interests of 
all humanity. To resolve them there has to be extensive promotion 
of international scientific, technological and economic co-operation. 
At the same time, it is quite wrong for bourgeois scientists, ideolog¬ 
ists and politicians to try to depict the ecological crisis as some 
ineluctable means of production growth in the age of the scientific 
and technological revolution. In reality the crisis has been the con¬ 
sequence of contradiction between the objective need for preserving 
and restoring the natural environment and the aims of capitalist 
production, its orientation on a rapid turnover of capital and maxi¬ 
mum profit. The ecological problem can be resolved through set¬ 
ting up a long-term planning system that subordinates production 
development to the interests of entire society, but that task goes 
beyond the bounds of the laws of the capitalist mode of production. 

The ruling circles in capitalist countries, recognising the acute¬ 
ness of the ecological problems, have been unable to come up with 
sufficiently effective means of dealing with them. Theories proclaim¬ 
ing the holding back of economic growth and Malthusian meas¬ 
ures for restricting population growth as a radical means of saving 
humankind have become widely popular. The practical conclusions 
from those theories nearly always boil down to tackling the prob¬ 
lem at the expense of workers’ living standards and consumption, 
without touching monopoly profits. Thus, restriction on economic 
growth is understood above all as a narrowing of mass consumption 
so as to reorientate monopoly capital on producing means for safe¬ 
guarding the environment. Higher wages are said to be a hin¬ 
drance to mobilising the means necessary for that. To control pop¬ 
ulation growth it is proposed to cut family benefits. Despite the 
rapid rise in government and other organisations engaged in envi¬ 
ronmental protection, despite elaboration of appropriate legislation, 
the practical results of measures undertaken in that area are ex¬ 
tremely limited and have not come near resolving the problem. 

Exacerbation of social problems which capitalism has run up 
against in the course of the scientific and technological revolution 
and development of state-monopoly control has marked a new stage 
in intensification of its contradictions. Of course, the inadequate 
housing conditions, health service, the inequality in education and 
the difficulties of urban living have always been the lot of the 
workers under capitalism, and the scale of many of these has con- 






278 


CHAPTER 7 


siderably reduced when compared with the last century or the firs* 
decades of this one. Yet, the acuteness of social problems cannot be 
measured merely by quantitative yardsticks, by the statistics of 
various forms of material and cultural poverty. It depends on the 
entire development of society and social wealth and on conformity 
of various aspects of living conditions to its level. 

The worsening of many social problems in the 60s and 70s 
stemmed, first, from the contradiction between possibilities for meet¬ 
ing social and individual needs engendered by the scientific and tech¬ 
nological revolution and the particularly rapid rate of growth in 
those needs that it induced, on the one hand, and the increasing 
failure to satisfy them under capitalism, on the other. 

Second, the worsening of capitalism’s main contradiction became 
manifest with renewed vigour in social relations. The private mode 
of appropriation, by continuing to engender anarchy of production 
and economic instability, at the same time intensified disproportions 
between the various forms of consumption, hampered the develop¬ 
ment of social services necessitated by the scientific and technologi¬ 
cal revolution, by the ensuing shifts in socio-economic affairs and 
the upset balance between society and nature. The traditional defi¬ 
ciencies of capitalism were supplemented by mounting disarray in 
people’s everyday life. 

Third, the failure to resolve a number of urgent social problems 
was a major aspect of crisis in socio-economic regulation system 
established by state-monopoly capitalism. That system had proved 
not only unable to lend a really proportionate, stable character to 
development of the social sphere, but, moreover, estranged from 
society’s genuine interests and needs. 

During the 60s and 70s wide sections of the public in capitalist 
countries, including influential members of bourgeois science, began 
to appreciate the need for a much more vigorous state intervention 
in the promotion of social services; they realised the danger inhe¬ 
rent in continued private business control and market anarchy. 
Many leading bourgeois and social-reformist politicians also recog¬ 
nised this. Presidents and prime ministers of capitalist states, the 
leaders of major parties and even representatives of the monopoly 
hierarchy (like John Rockefeller) were talking of the need to sub¬ 
ordinate economic growth to ‘"human” goals and proclaiming the 
‘'quality of life” slogan. In the 60s and early 70s a whole number 
of programmes were drawn up and adopted aimed in one way or 
another at putting things right in the social sphere. But the scope 
of those programmes far from corresponded to real needs, and, what 
is more, in many cases they were not carried out or went only half¬ 
way. The share of the relevant state allocations in the pre-crisis 
years either grew only slightly or even fell. For example, the pro- 

















LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 279 


portion of expenditure on education in the US state budget increased 
from 3.7 to 3.8 per cent between 1970 and 1974, from 6.6 to 
8 1 per cent on health, from 1.5 to 1.8 per cent on housing and pub¬ 
lic amenity construction, and from 1.3 to 1.4 per cent on environ¬ 
mental protection. In West Germany the share of expenditure on 
public needs in the aggregate total of net capital investment fell 
from 34.5 per cent in 1950 to 29 per cent in 1972. In Italy state 
allocations under a 5-year programme for developing the infrastruc¬ 
ture (1965-1970) were met only by 47 per cent in education and cul¬ 
ture, by 45 per cent in health, and 47 per cent in public transport. 1 

The narrowly class, anti-social nature of government regulation 
was particularly apparent in the correlation between military and 
social expenditure. The militarisation of the economy means the es¬ 
tablishment of a stable market and conditions for obtaining maxi¬ 
mum profits for the monopolies of the military-industrial complex. 
This is done at the expense of funds that could be used to meet ur¬ 
gent public needs. For example, the 1974 US budget, while fully re¬ 
voking or substantially cutting back almost a hundred programmes 
for federal funding of housing construction and expanding hospitals 
and schools, envisaged an increase in military expenditure by 4.7 
billion dollars. 2 

The biggest blow to plans to enhance the “quality of life” was 
dealt by the economic crisis of the mid-70s. In the crisis situation 
the state and monopoly striving at all costs to cut back expenditure 
on social needs and to hold the economy on tight reins as a prime 
means of anti-crisis policy further intensified. 

The accumulation and intertwining of numerous economic and 
social problems, which characterise the development of state-monop¬ 
oly capitalism, paved the way for a fresh exacerbation of class 
contradictions. Class inequality in all spheres of material and 
cultural affairs, of course, was nothing new in the history of capi¬ 
talism, but under the influence of substantial shifts in production 
and consumption, in the structure and volume of requirements, it 
became much more perceptible and harder to tolerate than in the 
preceding periods. It was not only that income inequalities were 
preserved and intensified, but that in circumstances of rising national 
wealth and average living standards, low income sections of the 
population were deprived of vital services and conditions regarded 
as a necessary element in those standards. It was those sections 
that became the main victims of all kinds of economic and social 
disproportions, of the uneven development of various spheres. Cap¬ 
italism’s traditional problem of poverty acquired new contours: 

1 M Bordini, N. Cacace, M. d’Ambrosio, Contratti 12 e crisi economica, 
Rome, 1972, p. 136. 

2 The United States Budget in Breif. Fiscal Year 197d, Washington, 1973. 




280 


CHAPTER 7 


from being an eternal evil, it turned into monstrous injustice; \\ 
was not the easing of poverty but its eradication as a social phe¬ 
nomenon that had become an ever more obvious and pressing need 
of social development. The problem was particularly acute in those 
circumstances in which destitution of the various groups of workers 
was intensified through racial, national or religious inequality (Blacks 
in the USA, foreign workers in Western Europe, Catholics in North¬ 
ern Ireland), through the economic and social backwardness of 
many regions and the crisis in a number of industries and agricul- 

In the circumstances of economic growth even bourgeois politi- ^ 
cians and scholars began to work out programmes for reducing 
poverty levels and incomes inequality. With the onset in the 70s 
of an economic crisis and unemployment, the islands of poverty 
began clearly to grow into continents, and the threat of hardship in 
all its multifarious forms hung over more and more sections of work¬ 
ing people. 

Material hardship and lack of provision for wide sections of the 
working class, however, were not the only causes of a sharpening 
conflict between workers and the capitalist system. A certain expan¬ 
sion of the workers’ consumption, and an improvement in their le¬ 
gal status, interacting with social processes stimulated by scientific 
and technological progress, considerably weakened the traditional 
cultural isolation of the working class and strengthened its social 
status. This was apparent, too, in the proliferation of new forms of 
consumption and leisure, in the rising educational standards of 
workers and in their growing proximity to the mass of non-manual 
workers. The spread of the mass media (radio and TV) opened up 
access to the sources of cultural and socio-political information en¬ 
joyed by other social strata. 

At the same time, changes in the structure of consumption and 
way of life of the working class made no impression on its status 
of inequality. Those relations continued to affect the whole totality 
of living conditions of the working people, and marked class bar¬ 
riers remained in all areas of life. 

The specific forms that the process of rising educational and cul¬ 
tural standards among workers objectively took under capitalism 
inevitably intensified the problems caused by the working class’ 
socially unequal status. That process was increasingly coming into 
obvious conflict with the low status and all-round dependence of 
the worker in production, with the extremely low opportunities he 
had for social and occupational improvement, with most workers 
being deprived of creativity and initiative in work. 

In the USA in 1965, 40.6 per cent of skilled workers, 45.7 per 
cent of semi-skilled and 42.4 per cent of unskilled had general 






































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


281 


and vocational school training of 8-11 years, and 37.9 per cent, 
32 5 per cent and 23.3 per cent of 12 years. 1 So a considerable pro¬ 
portion of workers with a relatively high education were obliged 
to do unskilled and low-skilled jobs. Opportunities for their voca¬ 
tional improvement were normally extremely limited. In the words 
of a Parisian metal worker, “after 30 years we have no chance of 
any advancement, no personality development at work . 2 Such a 
situation is very typical outside France as well. 

The rising social and cultural requirements of workers in cir¬ 
cumstances of continuing class inequality have been a major requi¬ 
site of the intensifying socio-political instability of state-monopoly 
capitalism and the crisis in the political and ideological supremacy 
that it created. The crisis has worsened also because of the enor¬ 
mous expansion of state functions and state incursion into economic 
and social spheres, unprecedented in peacetime, which has more 
and more vividly contrasted with its inefficiency, its inability to 
cope with economic disasters and social problems. 

The crisis upset state-monopoly capitalism’s finely-tuned mechan¬ 
ism of bourgeois political control over the common people. In a 
number of capitalist countries, especially in Western Europe and 
Japan, mass bourgeois parties (the CDU-CSU in West Germany, 
the UDR in France, the Christian Democrats In Italy and the Lib¬ 
eral Democratic Party in Japan) became an important element of 
that mechanism in the post-war period. In advocating a stimula¬ 
tion of economic growth and reforms aimed at a state-monopoly re¬ 
construction of the economy and political mechanism, they were able 
to win support of the bulk of the intermediate strata and less po¬ 
litically advanced groups of workers. Having command over the deci¬ 
sive levers of state power and strong positions in parliament and 
being also closely associated with the leading monopolies, these 
parties played an important part in politically ensuring the long¬ 
term interests and stability of the monopoly bourgeoisie’s class rule. 

Elsewhere (the USA and Britain) the traditional two-party sys¬ 
tem performed the same tasks: periodical turns in power by the 
two bourgeois or a bourgeois and a social-reformist parties, similar 
in the scope of their mass influence, enabled them, by either step¬ 
ping up or stepping down reformist manoeuvring in governmental 
policy, to ensure the stability of major orientations of state-monopo¬ 
ly policy. In yet another group of countries (Scandinavian, in partic¬ 
ular) pursuance of the same course in its social-democratic variant 

1 N. P. Ivanov, The Scientific and Technological Revolution and Questions 
of Training Skilled Personnel in Advanced Capitalist Countries, Moscow, 
1971, p. 77 (in Russian). 

2 Quoted in: Socio-Political Shifts in Advanced Capitalist States, Moscow, 
1971, p. 57 (in Russian). 






served as a form of ransom paid for preserving and fortifying 
leading positions of the monopolies; here the tactics of social con, 
cessions and the close bond between political power and the hier¬ 
archy of the organised labour movement made it possible to subor- 
dinate the latter to the aims of state-monopoly capitalism. Finally 
military-fascist dictatorships ensured political stability for the ex¬ 
isting system in Spain, Portugal and Greece. 

At the end of the 60s and in the 70s the mass social base of lead¬ 
ing bourgeois parties dwindled and the coalitions they led disinte¬ 
grated or lost support. The West German CDU-CSU had to cede 
power to a coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals; the French 
UDR and the Italian Christian Democrats lost votes and their ruling 
party prerogative was under serious threat. The two-party system 
began to falter noticeably: in the USA a third, and in Britain a 
quarter of the electorate in 1974 no longer supported either of the 
two major parties. The fascist regimes in Portugal, Spain and 
Greece crumbled under pressure from the mass struggle. 

The worsening of social problems and the strengthening trend 
towards detente acted as factors intensifying in several countries 
the influence of Social Democratic parties. In West Germany, Brit¬ 
ain, Australia and New Zealand they took the place of bourgeois 
parties at the helm of state. But that change did not last long: in 
the deepening economic crisis the social programmes of the Social¬ 
ists were increasingly whittled away, and Social Democratic gov¬ 
ernments displayed just as much helplessness in fighting inflation 
and unemployment as the right-wing bourgeois and centrist par¬ 
ties when in government. In those conditions large groups of vot¬ 
ers deserted the ruling Social Democratic parties that were to 
suffer defeat even in their traditional citadels—the Scandinavian 
states. 

Political instability in the capitalist world increased in the mid- 
70s. It was evident in the fragility of government majorities in the 
parliaments of Britain, Italy and Japan, in the disintegration or in¬ 
ner debilitation of earlier-formed government coalitions (West Ger¬ 
many, Italy and France), in worsening internal party squabbles and 
conflict between the executive and the legislative power (the USA), 
in the frequent government crises and early elections. All these 
events in scope and significance went far beyond the bounds of the 
customary political struggle within the ruling camp: in a number of 
countries they were directly bound up with growing democratic 
and political opposition to state-monopoly policy, and on the 
whole they reflected the crisis state of capitalism’s political super¬ 
structure, its inability to defuse mounting social discontent, to work 
out realistic ways to overcome growing economic difficulties and 
disproportions in social development. 









































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


283 


processes inherent in the evolution of the superstructure itself 
within state-monopoly capitalism also helped to deepen the political 
crisis. Stronger authoritarian trends in the executive power and an 
immense expansion of the state apparatus led to the development 
of bureaucracy and growing lack of control over state agencies. That 
was paving the way for corruption, embezzlement of public funds 
and the enhanced role of the police and intelligence services in the 
state mechanism. Spying and gangsterism were widely employed not 
only against democratic opposition; in the fight between bourgeois 
political groupings in a number of countries direct contacts were 
being established between criminal gangs and various links in the 
party-political mechanism. A series of political scandals, like the 
infamous Watergate and exposures of bribery of prominent bour¬ 
geois politicians in several countries by the American aircraft-build¬ 
ing company Lockheed, exposed the whole depth of political amo- 
rality in bourgeois society. 

Corruption and lawlessness are certainly not new phenomena in 
the history of capitalist political institutions. But with the state’s 
extension of functions and responsibility under state-monopoly cap¬ 
italism there has been a huge increase both in the opportunities 
for such practice and in the scale of its social consequences. The 
disorganising and demoralising effect of the corrupt and unrestrained 
(even by bourgeois law) state apparatus on economic and social 
life is acquiring truly catastrophic proportions with the sharply in¬ 
creased role of the state. 

One result of all these processes is the growing discreditation of 
bourgeois political power and political institutions as a whole. In 
the mid-70s, in several leading capitalist states a record number of 
voters abstained from parliamentary and presidential elections. In 
the USA, for example, only about half the eligible voters turned out 
in 1974, 1976 and 1980. Public opinion polls made no bones about 
the fact that broad sections of the populace were more disenchanted 
than ever with the governing, with ruling parties and the whole 
existing political mechanism. Those moods permeated a substantial 
part of the middle strata comprising the traditional support for 
bourgeois policy. In 1974, for example, 55 per cent of surveyed 
Americans opined that people running the country were disinterested 
in the fate of ordinary citizens; 68 per cent reckoned that in the 
previous decade the administration had been constantly deceiving 
the public, and in the autumn of 1979 as many as 84 per cent 
declared that they were “dissatisfied with the way things are going 
with the United States at this time”. 1 

In a number of countries rising social discontent boiled over info 


1 Public Opinion, December/January, 1980, No. 1, Vol. 3, p. 8. 





284 


CHAPTER 7 


broad mass movements against the political course of ruling circle, 
and acute socio-political crises. 1 

The development of crisis processes in politics, whether expressed 
in open conflicts between mass democratic opposition and the incum. 
bent power or in general destabilisation of the domestic political 
situation, was a factor in highlighting decisive fundamental issues 
concerning the objectives of the policy pursued, the interests it 
expressed and its relevance to popular needs. 

The working class in such a situation was being squarely faced 
with the problem of ensuring an influence on the decision-making 
in national politics, the problem of gaining new, more meaningful 
positions in politics, of the light for democratising government proc¬ 
ess and curbing monopoly power over society. The need to baulk 
the intrigues of open foes of democracy—the fascists and ultra- 
rights—dictated constant watchfulness. Utilising these forces as a 
reserve, the ruling class, in the event of a direct threat appearing 
to the capitalist system, as experience has shown, has not been squeam¬ 
ish about resorting to any methods. In safeguarding democracy, 
the working class rallied all sincere and honest campaigners against 
bourgeois dictatorship and oligarchy. 

The vital interests of the working class and all working people 
required, however, more than defence of traditional democratic 
rights and institutions. State-monopoly capitalism and the rising 
public influence of the working class considerably altered the con¬ 
ditions of political activity in capitalist society. Governmental and 
semi-governmental agencies for socio-economic control, in whose 
work representatives of the organised labour movement were taking 
part, appeared in most capitalist states. 

This participation became just as necessary a means of struggle 
as, for example, participation in parliament and local government. 
It enabled the organised working class to bring more pressure to 
bear on the formulation and implementation of socio-economic pol¬ 
icy, to counterpose systematically and concretely alternative deci- 
sions expressing the workers’ interests to political decisions advanced 
in monopoly interests, and to obtain the necessary information 
on the range of topics involved in it. 

However, experience of the labour movement also testified to an¬ 
other development. Insofar as the genuine rights of worker represen¬ 
tation in socio-economic decision-making on the state level is ex¬ 
tremely limited and the agencies in which workers take part are pre¬ 
dominantly only consultative, the results of the activity of worker 
representatives depend primarily on mass struggle. Only workers’ 
organisations that are guided by class struggle principles are capa- 


1 See chapters 10 and 11. 












































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


285 


k} e of consistently maintaining connection with it. But if the activity 
0 f worker representatives is not subordinated to those principles, 
their participation in state bodies turns out to be a favourable breed¬ 
ing ground for conciliatory and opportunist tendencies, for forming 
a specific variety of trade union bureaucracy that fuses with state 

bureaucracy. 

With the worsening of capitalism’s socio-political crisis, the ruling 
state-monopoly hierarchy more and more vigorously aspired to use 
various joint, and particularly tripartite (the state—trade unions— 
employers) bodies and procedures for promoting neocorporatism—the 
system of political decision-making aimed at subordinating the or¬ 
ganised labour movement to the principles of class collaboration, 
to the economic and socio-political objectives of monopoly capital. 
In theory and practice neocorporatism came to be seen as a political 
model intended to supplement or even replace the traditional “plu¬ 
ralist” democracy. It embodied authoritarian, anti-democratic tenden¬ 
cies of state-monopoly capitalism. 

The developing situation demanded from worker organisations a 
clear-cut definition of the fundamental line of their activity. Either 
the conversion of the new rights into an instrument of fighting for 
a real restriction on and undermining of the power of the bourgeoi¬ 
sie, or collaboration with it, which would bolster the danger of in¬ 
tegration into the system of that power, of becoming an appendage, 
an instrument of its influence on the workers. That was the alterna¬ 
tive. However, both awareness of that alternative and mastery of 
the expanded methods of class struggle was never an easy thing; in 
many cases, especially in those sections of the labour movement 
where the influence of reformist or sectarian ideas has been strong, 
it came about only through protracted and arduous experience. 

The socio-political crisis of capitalism put to doubt not only the 
effectiveness of bourgeois political activity as such, but also its guid¬ 
ing ideological norms and values. 

The growth of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism 
was accompanied by a fundamental ideological rearmament of the rul¬ 
ing class. By considerably extending its functions, making claim to 
the role of regulating economic and social affairs allegedly in the 
interests of the whole of society, the capitalist state needed ideo¬ 
logical underpinning of that role. The mounting state intervention in 
class relations also led to a strengthening of ideological functions 
of bourgeois state policy, which became a paramount means of 
bourgeois ideological and psychological influence over the mass of 
the populace. During the post-WW II decades the capitalist state 
and the ruling class have on the whole widely relied on ideas and 
notions of bourgeois apologists renovated “in the spirit of the 
times”. Notions of “industrial society”, technocratic theories identify- 



286 


CHAPTER 7 


mg progress in technology and economy with social progress, “pi u 
ralism” that portrays the capitalist political system as harmoni 0u ^ 
and balancing out the countervailing class interests, etc., have all I 
been used to spread the illusion of a radical transformation of th e 
capitalist system, for masking the class essence of the capitalist 
state. 

Crisis in the economic and social policy of state-monopoly capital¬ 
ism, the growing credibility gap in its political system, have there¬ 
fore signified bankruptcy of the most influential strains in bourgeois 
ideology and a serious deepening in the ideological crisis of capi¬ 
talist society. 

In the past, crisis phenomena in the ideological and spiritual 
sphere of capitalist society directly affected mainly relatively limited 
groups of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intellectuals. During the 
60s and 70s, the fall in standards and what appeared to be firmly 
established values, the loss of orientation directing personal con¬ 
sciousness and behaviour, acquired truly mass proportions. The cult 
of consumption and personal material success implanted by the per¬ 
vasive apparatus of bourgeois ideology, the philistine consumer 
ideals and orientation on inferior standardised entertainment pur¬ 
veyed by “mass culture”, have all resulted in the contemporary era 
in the most severe shocks to the psychological sphere of life. The 
anti-humane moral standards engendered by capitalist relations are 
coming into deep-going contradiction not only with the real situation 
of the common people, but with the mounting level of their intel¬ 
lectual requirements, with the lofty social ideals which the develop¬ 
ment of the world revolutionary process and the practice of socialist 
and communist construction are implanting into their consciousness. 
The insecurity and instability of the material situation, the narrow¬ 
ness of life prospects, the lack of employment for many young peo¬ 
ple, social inequality, mounting isolation and loneliness in a world 
governed by laws of individualism, profound moral dissatisfaction 
with the mindless, passive consumer existence, the inaccessibility 
for most people of a constructive, creative activity, and the overall 
nervous-psychological overstrain are all troubles that interweave and 
mutually supplement one another and engender crisis, unhealthy 
phenomena in morality, psychology and social behaviour of the in¬ 
dividual. Their most blatant extrinsic expression is now the mass 
scale of crime, drug abuse, violence, nervous breakdowns, disinte¬ 
gration of elementary moral standards, social and individual passi¬ 
vity. 

Personality crisis in bourgeois sociology is frequently depicted 
as a type of “global phenomenon”, an ineluctable consequence of 
social change caused by technological progress. In actual fact those 
groups of people who oppose capitalist relations and are guided by 























LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


287 


ther— humane, collectivist, democratic and, especially, socialist— 
standards and ideals, by aspirations for genuine culture and knowl¬ 
edge, for social activity, preserve their moral values despite all the 
slings and arrows of outrageous capitalist fortune, and find within 
themselves strength to counterpose the baneful effect of capitalism’s 
social atmosphere. The scale of the crisis phenomena in that area is 
hound up with the fact that fairly numerous social groups, both pri¬ 
vileged and part of those exploited by capitalism, are not in a state 
to resist the aimlessness and emptiness of life governed by bour¬ 
geois standards, to oppose it with different standards. 

During the 70s even leading ideologists of capitalism were begin¬ 
ning to recognise the connection between the spiritual crisis and 
bourgeois social relations. As the American sociologist Daniel Bell, 
the proponent of the “postindustrial society” theory, put it, free en¬ 
terprise, consumer-oriented society no longer morally satisfied its 
citizens. All the basic postulates of capitalism’s social philosophy, 
individualism first and foremost, faith in the ability of wealth to 
demolish all conflicts caused by inequality, were found to be want¬ 
ing. 1 

The worsening of capitalism’s crisis did much to resuscitate 
and expand the set of problems facing the working class and labour 
movement of capitalist countries. Naturally, the working class in 
that situation was not a passive object of the crisis. Its campaign 
for living standards, for democracy, peace and social progress, was 
a major factor in the weakening of capitalism’s social and political 
stability. At the same time, new elements in economic, political and 
spiritual life in capitalist society essentially changed the objective 
conditions of that struggle. On the whole those changes occurred 
in the following fundamental directions. 

First, there was a considerable extension of the scope of specific 
tasks facing the labour movement in safeguarding workers’ vital 
interests. The traditional struggle in defence of employment and liv¬ 
ing standards merged with the fight for development of social serv¬ 
ices corresponding to the objective requirements, the fight over prob¬ 
lems arising as a result of environmental pollution and falling 
living conditions in the towns. Resistance to attempts by the ruling 
class to recover from economic difficulties at the workers’ expense 
fused with the campaign against processes corroding social and per¬ 
sonal life, the campaign for putting right and making healthy the 
economy, the way of life, morality, for a humanitarian and democrat¬ 
ic alternative to the standards of bourgeois culture and mode of 
living. 


1 See Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, London, 1976, 
p. 249. 





288 


CHAPTER 7 


Second, in the crisis situation a politicisation of the problems 0 f 
economic and social status of the working class and other workers’ 
groups developed further. The numerous crisis phenomena were not 
only a consequence of the development of spontaneous processes 
immanent in capitalism, hut also of the entire orientation of state 
policy. 

The crisis simultaneously revealed both the inability of that pol¬ 
icy to set right social and economic affairs, and its adverse effect 
on these affairs, associated with the growth in unproductive state 
expenditure, the stimulation of the arms race to the detriment of 
pressing social needs, with the neocolonialist approach to relations 
with the developing countries, and with restrictions on democratic 
liberties. Meanwhile, government regulation was used in every way 
possible by the ruling class to shift the burden of the crisis onto the 
shoulders of the working people. In those circumstances the labour 
movement was faced as never before with the tasks of opposing 
the whole range of orientations in bourgeois state domestic and for¬ 
eign policy inimical to the popular interest. This required a specific 
and justified labour and democratic alternative to be advanced 
against the state-monopoly political course. 

Third, the development of the labour movement in the crisis si¬ 
tuation occurred in exceedingly acute and contradictory social and 
political circumstances. Exacerbation of an extensive range of socio¬ 
economic problems brought to life an upsurge in a whole number 
of democratic social movements: youth, national, women’s, farmers’, 
regional, various occupational, demographic and other social groups. 
The mass student movement played a particularly important part 
in the developing socio-political crisis in the USA and some other 
countries in the late 60s and early 70s; it highlighted not only the 
question of higher education, but also the aims of the government’s 
foreign and home policy and the status of the individual under the 
state-monopoly system. Having intensified the ideological and politi¬ 
cal confusion in bourgeois and reformist parties, the crisis helped 
crystallise trends opposing the policy of the party hierarchy and in¬ 
sisting on wider account of popular demands in their policy. 

All these phenomena reflected serious shifts in socio-political con¬ 
sciousness and behaviour of mass sections of capitalist society, lead¬ 
ing to a leftward shift of the political axis and creating fresh oppor¬ 
tunities for united action of workers and other democratic move¬ 
ments. 

At the same time, expansion of the mass base of the anti-monop¬ 
oly struggle confronted the labour movement with more than a 
few complicated political and ideological problems. The socially he¬ 
terogeneous and to a large extent non-proletarian nature of many 
new democratic movements spawned extremely motley and amor- 
















































LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


289 


nhous platforms and ideological attitudes: from naive-utopian reform¬ 
ism to petty-bourgeois rebelliousness and anarchism. Unity be¬ 
tween the working class and such movements required comprehen¬ 
sive account of the real needs and aspirations being expressed by 
the corresponding social strata, of their positive contribution to 
the general democratic struggle. In the meantime, there was much 
that was unacceptable to the labour movement in the ideology and 
forms of activity of these trends, particularly those of them which 
claimed some sort of exclusive role in the revolutionary struggle, 
which suffered from sectarian corporatism or nationalism, or even 
launched activity directed against proletarian class organisations. 

In other words, in a situation of sharply expanding opportunities 
for an alliance between the working class and other democratic 
forces, the working class was faced with the complicated task of 
finding specific and appropriate ways to implement those possibili¬ 
ties, of building a sufficiently flexible and reliable system of allied 
relations with the numerous trends involved in the democratic strug¬ 
gle or capable of taking part in it. 

That task became even more urgent since the crisis had far from 
exhausted the economic, social, political and ideological potential of 
capitalism. In particular, the crisis-induced discontent and disen¬ 
chantment of wide sections of people, particularly the petty bour¬ 
geoisie, part of the white-collar workers, and the more backward 
groups of the working class, operated both as a factor in the growth 
of the democratic forces, and also created a really serious threat of 
expansion of the mass base of right-wing extremist and fascist ten¬ 
dencies. During the 70s these tendencies particularly came to life 
in the USA, Italy, West Germany and some other countries. The 
ability of the organised labour movement to head the struggle against 
the consequences of the crisis and curb the causes engendering 
it was of particular significance in repelling reaction and fascism. 

Experience of the crisis more and more showed that, although the 
crisis phenomena and processes with which the working class had 
to cope developed under the impact of specific national conditions, 
they were interconnected in all countries of the world capitalist 
system, that both the national and internationally-organised monop¬ 
oly capital stood opposed to the vital interests of the working 
people. 

5** '1. 

Typical of the post-war period and particularly the 60s and 70s 
has been the considerably growing internationalisation of capital 
and economic affairs. The latest features of that internationalisation 
have appeared in the main on two very much interconnected levels: 


19-0515 




290 


CHAPTER 7 


the private monopoly and the state-monopoly. The internationalisa¬ 
tion of capital on a private monopoly level is apparent in the further 
development of international monopolies, above all the transnational 
corporations (TNC). It is also evident in the establishment of a 
ramified system of connections and agreements among monopolies 
of various countries. It should be pointed out here that the great 
bulk of the biggest international monopolies are not multinational, 
as they are frequently termed in economic literature, but transna¬ 
tional—i.e. being the property of capitalists of a single country yet 
having their branches and firms in various countries. Only a few 
international concerns are multinational, belonging to and run by 
capitalists of different countries: for example, the British-Dutch 
Unilever and Royal Dutch-Shell, the Anglo-Italian Dunlop-Pirelli. 

Typical of the internationalisation of capital on a state-monopoly 
level is the increasingly broad intervention by the state in the pro¬ 
cess of foreign economic links and relations, the creation of various 
integrational mechanisms, a system of inter-state agencies closely 
linked up both with national and international associations of mo¬ 
nopolies. 

Although the process of capital internationalisation on the two 
above-mentioned levels reflects the effect of a number of objective 
factors associated with the present-day development of forces of 
production, the major stimulus is the aspiration by monopolies to 
maximise profits and, ultimately, to step up exploitation of the 
workers. 

In a relatively brief span the transnationals and the few really 
multinational corporations have occupied key positions within the 
world capitalist economy. Experts assessed that there were 650 in¬ 
ternational corporations in the early 70s. They accounted for 90 per 
cent of foreign investment, about a third of the capitalist world’s 
gross national product, a half of foreign trade and 80 per cent of 
non-governmental expenditure on research. The 350 biggest of 
them alone accounted for over 23 million employees. The total vol¬ 
ume of production in the foreign enterprises of the international, 
mostly transnational, corporations in the early 70s surpassed that of 
world capitalist exports. It also exceeded the GNP of any capital¬ 
ist country with the exception of the USA. The international mo¬ 
nopolies have become a sort of second power in the capitalist world. 

In involving dozens of millions of workers in their sphere of 
exploitation, the transnationals have a strong and disorganising 
impact on the labour market. They create employment instability, 
first, when swallowing up local firms, by rationalisation and reduc¬ 
tion of the work force usually carried out in these cases; second, 
•through their narrow specialisation of firms in various countries and 
periodical change of specialisation; and, third, through their striv- 






















LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


291 


. „ to transfer the burden of crisis and other economic difficulties 
t0 their foreign branches. 

For the working class the fact that the decision-making centres of 
those corporations in many cases are very remote from the local 
branches creates great difficulties in the struggle against the transna¬ 
tionals. In many countries where their numerous firms are located, 
the transnationals are able to avoid direct confrontation with the 
national organisations of the working class when it comes to tackl¬ 
ing important “centralised” issues. 

By using their economic might, the transnationals undermine the 
efforts of national governments to control the economy. Moreover, 
they directly intervene in the political sphere, exerting a great in¬ 
fluence on the domestic and foreign policy of the ruling circles in 
the “recipient countries”. In doing so they come out as a stronghold 
of the most reactionary imperialist forces, opposing democratic liber¬ 
ties and the workers’ social gains, as well as the national sovereign¬ 
ty of many states. Their interests are often the driving factor be¬ 
hind foreign intervention in the internal affairs of those countries 
where their firms are located. As was noted at the Brussels Confer¬ 
ence of Communist Parties of the Capitalist Countries of Europe 
in 1974, transnationals “support the most reactionary and most au¬ 
thoritarian trends, including fascist trends”. 1 A number of them 
were directly involved in the overthrow of the Allende democratic 
government and support of reactionary, dictatorial regimes in Chile 
and other Latin American countries, the extreme right wing in Por¬ 
tugal, Francoism in Spain, the right-wing ultras in France, the neo- 
fascists in Italy and West Germany, the most reactionary political 
trends in the United States, etc. They invariably oppose democratic 
forces, striving to prevent left parties coming to power. This hap¬ 
pened in Italy in 1976 when the Exxon and Mobile corporations fi¬ 
nanced right-wing press organs and the banking transnationals an¬ 
nounced their readiness to take part in a credit blockade of the 
country in the event of Communists entering the Italian govern¬ 
ment. In Britain, they financed the Conservatives drawing up and 
adopting anti-worker legislation in 1971, and its replacement by 
a Labour government provoked a threat to take their capital out of 
the country. Many more examples could be adduced of transnation¬ 
als’ interference in the internal affairs of various countries, invar¬ 
iably in support of reactionary forces and against the interests of 
the working class and general national interests. 

The rise of the international monopolies, particularly the transna¬ 
tionals, presents an ever greater threat to the working class and 
the labour movement. Their enormous financial, productive and 


19* 


1 Comment, Vol. 12, No. 6, March 23, 1974, p. 72. 





economic power; their penetration into dozens of countries; thei P 
ability to affect very substantially individual national economies, 
go a long way to directing their development and, if they need, to 
disorganise those economies; the mobility that enables them swiftly 
to switch capital and production from one country to another in 
their struggle with the organised working class (and, if necessary 
with national governments as well); their mounting intervention in 
state policy, normally for reactionary purposes; and, finally, the 
deliberate course of stepping up exploitation of the working class, 
splitting it, suppressing or subordinating its organisations, all make 
them an unprecedentedly strong and dangerous foe of the prole- 
tariat. 1 


State-monopoly integration is a special, higher degree of develop¬ 
ment of the internationalisation of capital and economic affairs. It 
is expressed in the merging of national economies of various coun¬ 
tries into regional economic complexes and it implies the collective 
intervention of several states into the process of economic relations 
between nations. The fullest expression of this has been in the 
European Economic Community which currently covers 10 countries 
(France, West Germany, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Italy, 
Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Greece). The West European 
monopolies have been the major moving force behind the interna¬ 
tionalisation of economic life in the form of integration. Integration 
has expanded trade and the movement of capital among the West 
European states. These processes have stimulated a great influx of 
foreign, mainly American, capital into Western Europe, the exten¬ 
sive diffusion of a network of American transnational branches 
and, at the same time, more vigorous capital investment by West 
European companies beyond the EEC, largely in the United States. 
As a result, a complex knot of mutual dependence and contradictions 
has appeared. 

State-monopoly circles in EEC member states have set themselves 
a prime task of consolidating their forces in the form of integration 
to elaborate common economic and social strategy and tactics on 
the scale of the whole regional grouping, to ensure conditions of 
uninterrupted exploitation, to make an assault on workers’ rights 
and to combat the democratic and labour movement. These class 
objectives lay behind the plans of the Common Market initiators 
in setting up, as a complement to the economic and currency union, 
some sort of European community in which the antagonistic class 


1 For more detail see Chapter 9. 























LABOUR MOVEMENT AND CAPITALISM’S CONTRADICTIONS 


293 


contradictions would be mollified, the labour movement would be 
channelled into a reformism harmless to capitalism, and a class 
peace would be established between “social partners”. 

The EEC instigators put forward the Rome Treaty social pro¬ 
gramme as a major means of attaining those objectives. The pro¬ 
gramme was predominantly demagogic, proclaiming the need to 
ensure full employment (through forming a common market of 
labour power as a result of its free movement and of measures on 
work placement for people deprived of jobs owing to structural 
changes in the economy), better working conditions, vocational 
training, social insurance, assistance in developing backward areas 
and, finally, “harmonisation” of the social security systems and 
wage levels. In actual fact, however, integration has affected the 
social sphere least of all. The 60s witnessed the utter passivity of 
leading EEC bodies as well as EEC member state governments to 
carry through the 1957 Rome Treaty social programme. 

But in the early 70s, under the impact of political events in 
France in 1968 and in Italy in 1969, spurred on by the rise in so¬ 
cial tension in other countries, the attitude of EEC leading bodies to 
the common social policy began to change. From 1971 there was 
some expansion of activity of the Social Fund, which had been set 
up back in 1960, one of its aims being a better use of the work 
force and its higher mobility. From 1975 a Regional Fund started 
to operate, designed for helping poverty-stricken areas, and a num¬ 
ber of other measures intended to alleviate the very acute employ¬ 
ment problem and growing unemployment were mapped out. In 

1972 a decision was taken to work out by early 1974 a Social Ac¬ 
tion Programme obligatory for all EEC members. But already by 

1973 an EEC commission had come to the conclusion that it was 
impossible to establish any common and compulsory broad pro¬ 
gramme and confined it merely to a few specific objectives, such 
as the levelling out of certain working conditions, the implementa¬ 
tion of equal pay for men and women, and individual measures in 
employment and vocational training, mainly through extending So¬ 
cial Fund activity and setting up an ad hoc European Centre for 
Leisure and Education. But that widely heralded new common social 
programme also turned out to be unrealistic even in abbreviated 
form. 

During the crisis and years of unfavourable economic situation 
that followed it in Western Europe even the very principle of “har¬ 
monisation” of social conditions was put to doubt. The EEC ruling 
circles began to talk merely about the need to harmonise and bring 
closer national measures that would bring up the social conditions 
of lagging countries to some acceptable standard through persua¬ 
sion, but not through the introduction of compulsory decisions. 






294 


CHAPTER 7 


The trend towards the levelling out of wages, social benefits and 
general working conditions provoked by the internationalisation of 
production and new demands on the work force (and, consequently 
on conditions of its reproduction), associated with scientific and 
technological progress and change in economic structures, was uneven 
in both time and country. During the years of a favourable economic 
situation the gains of the working class in a particular country 0 f 
the Community in various areas of social life were extended to other 
countries as well. On the other hand, with a downturn in the eco¬ 
nomic situation, and especially following on the 1974-1975 crisis, 
the trend towards levelling out declined and there was a strength¬ 
ening of the opposite trend—to preserve and even intensify the dif¬ 
ferences in living standards between the wealthiest and most back¬ 
ward and poorest regions, between the various categories of workers 
within the EEC on the whole and in each individual country. In 
spite of promised full employment, unemployment began rapidly 
to grow and turned into an exceedingly acute social problem. 

On the whole the experience of the 70s demonstrated that the 
social policy of EEC agencies was incapable of becoming a decisive 
factor in diminishing the regional differences in living standards 
and even less in alleviating the adverse consequences for working 
people of the structural shifts in the economy, the arbitrary behav¬ 
iour of the transnational monopolies and the consequences of eco¬ 
nomic crises. 


The worsening of socio-economic and political contradictions in 
the advanced capitalist countries, the consolidation and manoeuvring 
of the class enemy at national and international level, set the labour 
movement qualitatively new tasks in the fight both for immediate 
and for the long-term interests of the proletariat. 



































Chapter 8 

THE MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT IN THE LATE 1950s 

AND EARLY 1960s 


THE LABOUR MOVEMENT SWITCHES 
FROM DEFENCE TO ATTACK 

Already in the late 50s, the socio-economic changes caused by 
the ongoing scientific and technological revolution and state-mo¬ 
nopoly reconstruction of capitalist society produced objective condi¬ 
tions for a fresh upsurge in the labour movement. A serious shift in 
the overall balance of power in the world created favourable inter¬ 
national conditions for the working class in capitalist states to go on 
to the offensive, which became a major factor in the commencement 
of the third stage in capitalism’s general crisis. The difficult period 
of a decline in the labour movement, its surrender of certain po¬ 
sitions under pressure from reaction, was now in the past. 

The first signs of revival in the labour movement may be traced 
back to the late 50s. It was evident in an upsurge in the trade uni¬ 
on movement and the strike struggle, and in a marked leftward 
swing in various sections of the working class: a number of unions 
took a more resolute anti-monopoly stand and the influence of Com¬ 
munist parties among the masses gained ground in some countries. 

The labour movement’s switch to the offensive started in all the 
major regions of the capitalist world. In Japan, the total number of 
organised actions, including strikes, and the number of their par¬ 
ticipants grew after the adoption in 1955 of concerted struggle of 
the “spring offensive” by various sections of the working class. In 
1958 elections to the lower house of parliament showed a fall in 
influence by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and success for 
left parties, not only the Socialists but, for the first time after 1949, 
of the Communists as well. The Communist Party began to recover 
after the blows it had suffered during the purge of reds at the start 
of the 50s. While before 1958 the influence of Japanese Communists 
at the polls had failed for several years (9.8 per cent of the vote in 
1949, 2.5 in 1952, 1.9 in 1953 and 2.0 in 1955), it began to pick up 
steadily from that year (2.6 per cent in 1958, 2.9 in 1960, 4.0 in 





296 


CHAPTER 7 


- 

1963, and 4.8 per cent in 1967), which paved the way for more 
marked successes during the 70s. 1 

A major strike hy 500,000 steel workers in the USA in 1959 was 
marked by uncommon persistence—it lasted 116 days and ended 
only after direct government intervention. 

In the late 50s, after the establishment in Canada (1956) of a 
new trade union centre,, the Canadian Labour Congress, the strike 
movement began to get off the ground there too. Most strikes were 
persistent and long drawn-out. At the same time the campaign in¬ 
tensified against US union leaders’ interference in the internal af¬ 
fairs of Canadian unions. 

A fresh upsurge in the strike movement began in 1959 in Italy. 
While in 1957 and 1958 the number of strikers amounted respec¬ 
tively to 1,227,000 and 1,283,000, and the number of idle hours was 
37 million and 33.4 million, in 1959 there were as many as 
1,900,000 people on strike in 1959 and 2,338,000 in 1960, while 
the number of idle hours had increased respectively to 73.5 million 
and 46.3 million. 2 During the strikes there were hopeful signs of 
concerted action by the three trade union confederations and the 
mass entry into the struggle of young people. 

Belgium witnessed a stormy strike of Borinage miners in 1959; 
they were protesting at the closure of mines and sackings. Here, the 
demand for structural reforms, i.e. decisive economic, social and po¬ 
litical changes, rang out for the first time. There was a marked 
shift leftwards in the stand of the Federation General e du Travail 
de Belgique (FGTB). It called for a curb on monopoly power and 
drew up a programme of structural reform that envisaged the na¬ 
tionalisation of several industries and various forms of worker par¬ 
ticipation in factory management. 

The strike movement also grew in the late 50s in Britain. In 
1958 public figures associated with the left wing of the Labour Par¬ 
ty founded the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. As a protest 
against nuclear armaments the British peace-fighters held a march 
from the atomic research centre of Aldermaston to London. Ever 
since, the annual Aldermaston marches became a tradition. The 
trade unions were steadily drawn into the anti-war campaign. The in¬ 
fluence of right-wing leaders was gradually being eroded (thus, at 
the head of the largest British union—that of the Transport Work¬ 
ers—was now the left-winger Frank Cousins, though the post had 
long been the preserve of right-wingers). This strengthened the ac¬ 
tivity of the left within the Labour Party itself. 


1 White Papers of Japan 1969-70. Annual Abstract of Official Reports and 
Statistics of the Japanese Government, Tokyo, 1971, pp. 356-57. 

2 Annuario statistico italiano 1961, p. 335. 




























MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


297 


In the spring and summer of 1958 the Movement Against Atom¬ 
ic Death in West Germany achieved a great deal of popularity, 
it involved social democratic, communist and non-party workers 
and the best representatives of the creative intelligentsia, all de¬ 
manding renunciation of plans to give the Federal Republic atomic 
weapons and agitating for support of the Rapacki Plan for an atom- 
free zone in Europe. The country witnessed a rash of anti-war 
strikes and demonstrations, all of which made a considerable contri¬ 
bution to the struggle against West German remilitarisation. In head¬ 
ing this movement, not without some hesitation, right-wing leaders 
of the Social Democratic Party and the trade unions employed all 
their influence to curtail it as soon as possible. All the same, these 
mass actions played a part in the process of latent accumulation of 
those feelings among the West German public that were to lead to 
a change in the country’s foreign policy. 

At the end of the 50s, thanks to communist backing, the Swed¬ 
ish Social Democratic government got a series of socio-economic 
reforms passed by parliament. They included the introduction of 
the most progressive pension system in the capitalist world. During 
the fight for those reforms Swedish Communists managed to over¬ 
come sectarianism within their ranks and launched a far-reaching 
campaign for working-class unity. 

The further development and renovation of the strategy and tac¬ 
tics of the international communist movement became the most im¬ 
portant event in its consequences for the labour movement during 
that period. The Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the 
Soviet Union, the congresses of fraternal parties, the international 
meetings of representatives of Communist and Workers’ parties all 
subjected to profound analysis the new conditions of development 
of the world revolutionary process resulting from the formation and 
strengthening of the system of socialist countries; they drew conclu¬ 
sions that enriched Marxist-Leninist theory and helped to overcome 
dogmatism and sectarianism. Many complex issues were tackled in 
a creative and new way. These included the further worsening of 
capitalism’s general crisis, peaceful coexistence as a special form of 
class struggle, the relationship between the struggle for democracy 
and that for socialism, the extending of working-class alliances, etc. 
At the same time, it was no easy process for the international com¬ 
munist movement to overcome dogmatic and sectarian extraneous 
features of the preceding period. 

The proletariat of France, one of the most militant contingents 
of the working class in advanced capitalist countries, conducted its 
fight in difficult circumstances. The Fourth Republic’s parliamenta¬ 
ry regime was going through a deep-seated crisis. Removal of Com¬ 
munists from participation in the government had considerably weak- 



298 


CHAPTER 8 


ened left-wing opposition within the National Assembly. Taking ari 
anti-communist position, the Socialist Party (SFIO) leadership ail( j 
that of the Party of Radical Socialists united with right-wing bop^ 
geois parties and rejected all communist proposals for concerted 
action. 

Growing political instability expressed in frequent cabinet 
changes, the declining role of parliament and the split in the left- 
wing forces all combined to facilitate actions by reactionaries 
orientated on authoritarian methods of governing the country. 

The process of consolidation of right-wing forces markedly ac¬ 
celerated in the situation that came to a head in the late 50s over 
the colonial question. Attempts by imperialist circles to halt the 
inevitable process of disintegration of the colonial empire led to pro¬ 
traction of wars and a heavy burden placed upon the workers. The 
stepping-up of reactionary, anti-democratic trends and the striving 
to establish a “strong power” were also the bourgeoisie’s response 
to the mounting resistance by colonial peoples. 

Clearly appreciating the danger the reactionaries represented when 
given leeway, the Communists insistently sought to unite the demo¬ 
cratic camp. At the 1956 parliamentary elections a majority of the 
electorate voted for Communist and Socialist candidates. Despite the 
refusal by the Socialist leader Guy Mollet to include Communists in 
the new government, the French Communist Party supported all of 
its major socio-economic measures. Yet the inability, and to a large 
extent the unwillingness of Guy Mollet’s government to tackle the 
sharply aggravating Algerian problem in a democratic way forced 
the Communist Party to go into opposition. 

The Communists could not avoid the establishment in 1958 of 
the personal power regime which was a concentrated expression of 
the rule of monopoly capital. Socialists, having deepened the split in 
the working class, now backed the new government of Charles de 
Gaulle. In the new circumstances, only the Communist Party con¬ 
tinued consistently to defend the interests of the workers, but the 
confusion among part of the population following the 1958 events 
hampered its activity. The hitherto politically fragmented bour¬ 
geois forces were now consolidated owing to the formation of the 
Gaullist Party—the Union pour la Nouvelle Republique (subse¬ 
quently the party was to be renamed Union des Democrates pour la 
Republique—the UDR). 

The obvious shift of some Social Democratic parties to bourgeois 
reformism was another worrying event of those years. The programme 
adopted by the Social Democratic Party of Germany at Bad Godes- 
berg in 1959 became the banner of Social Democracy’s “new 
frontiers.” Right-wing Labour Party leaders in Britain headed by 
Hugh Gaitskell earnestly sought to revise the Party programme and 






























MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


299 


turn the Party from its socialist objectives. The Italian Socialist 
Party led by Pietro Nenni, which had for long stood on the ex¬ 
treme left of international Social Democracy, was moving swiftly to 
the right, renouncing co-operation with Communists. 

So at the end of the 50s the overall picture of the labour move¬ 
ment in advanced capitalist countries was quite contradictory. It 
soon became evident, however, that signs of a new upsurge reflected 
the spirit of the age better than the difficulties or contradictions, 
no matter how serious. 

It is hardly surprising that even in those countries where the 
working class was experiencing serious setbacks in the late 50s, 
their effect turned out to be relatively limited. Despite the setback 
to the French labour movement in 1958, the most politically aware 
section of the French working class continued to support the Com¬ 
munist Party, and the Party preserved the major contingent of its 
voters. Further, the CGT remained the leading trade union centre, 
with as many as 60 per cent of workers voting for its candidates 
at workplaces even in the early years of the Fifth Republic. 1 

It ought to be noted, also, that the rightward swing of Italian So¬ 
cialists did not restrain Italian workers from greater mass struggle, 
just as the evolution of Gaitskell and other right-wing leaders to 
bourgeois reformism was unable to prevent actions by British La¬ 
bour Party and trade union members for nuclear disarmament. 

A marked enlivening of the labour movement in capitalist coun¬ 
tries began in 1960. On February 1, 1960 as many as 11 million 
French workers took part in a strike against yet another attempted 
putsch by Algerian ultras. This testified to a swift revival of the 
militant spirit and urge for unity among the wide masses of work¬ 
ers. Force Ouvriere and the Christian unions were obliged to sup¬ 
port the CGT in organising the strike. 

Even more tempestuous events occurred in Japan in May and June 
of 1960. One of the most important directions of Japanese work¬ 
ers’ political struggle for several years had been the fight against 
the US-Japan Security Treaty which had made the country depen¬ 
dent on American imperialism’s foreign policy. The struggle flared 
up with particular force in the late 50s and early 60s over plans 
by US-Japanese reaction to revise the Treaty and bolster its aggres¬ 
sive content. The National Council for Struggle Against “Security 
Treaty” Revision was set up in late March 1959 by concerted efforts 
of various sections of Japanese democracy. It incorporated repre¬ 
sentatives of the Communist and Socialist parties, the SOHYO and 
CHURITSU ROREN trade unions and over 100 other organisations. 


1 Le Nouvel Observateur, December 3, 1978, p. 46. 






300 


CHAPTER 8 


More than 20 powerful united actions took place during 1959-1960 
under the Council’s aegis. 

A powerful political strike swept the nation on June 4, 1960, in¬ 
volving 5.6 million, the overwhelming majority of all organised work¬ 
ers. On June 15 and 22 the country was shaken by even stronger 
political strikes (in each of which some 6 million people took part). 
Such an unprecedented scale of political protest by workers forced 
the Kishi government to resign and the US President to cancel his 
visit to Japan. That was a great victory for the forces of democra¬ 
cy and the labour movement. 

By infringing elementary parliamentary standards Japanese and 
American reactionaries managed to secure ratification of the Mu¬ 
tual Security Treaty. However, experience of struggle against it 
was extremely important for the further development of the labour 
movement. The struggle was unprecedented in the scope of con¬ 
certed action by all the major sections of Japanese democracy. In 
the course of it the proletariat enhanced its class consciousness and 
strengthened its determination in the defence of its interests. 

Hardly had the events in Japan died down than Italian workers 
took up the struggle coming out with anti-fascist slogans against 
police reaction. The worsening situation was due to the crisis in the 
centrist government policy pursued since 1947 and aimed at slow¬ 
ing down urgent reforms. In the situation of rapid socio-economic 
change, this policy was clearly unable to satisfy either the mount¬ 
ing demands of the workers or the requirements of economic develop¬ 
ment which was clashing with the glaring disproportions between 
industries and geographical zones (especially between North and 
South). 

Influential circles of the Italian ruling class tried to find a way 
out of the political crisis by stepping up reactionary measures. The 
one-party Christian Democratic government of Fernando Tambro- 
ni, formed in April 1960 and having neofascist parliamentary back¬ 
ing, endeavoured to respond to the incipient rise in strike struggle 
by stern repression. It was moving fast towards actually establish¬ 
ing a clerical police regime. The attempt by the authorities to en¬ 
sure the convocation of the congress of the neofascist party, the 
Italian Social Movement (MSI), in Genoa, a city proud of its part 
in the Resistance movement, was an open challenge to democratic 
forces. Unexpectedly for reactionaries, however, the attempt came 
up against strong and concerted opposition, above all from the work¬ 
ing class, but also from the democratic intellectuals and the poor 
in the South. For the first time since 1947-1948 diverse political 
forces who had participated formerly in the Resistance took part 
in the united front, from Communist to left-wing Catholics. Besides 
organisations of the Communist Party and the General Union of 






























MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


301 


Italian Workers, resuscitated local Resistance councils, with a broad 
spectrum of public representatives, played an outstanding part in 
leading the struggle. 

Mass strikes and stormy anti-fascist demonstrations prevented 
the MSI congress in Genoa. Thirsting for revenge, the Tambroni 
government sent in large police forces against the demonstrators. 
Thirteen people were shot and killed in attacks on demonstrators 
in Regio Emilia and other cities. This provoked an explosion of pop¬ 
ular fury and brought the country to the brink of civil war. Every¬ 
where popular protest was turning into street skirmishes with the 
police. 

The Communist Party did all it could not only to organise resis¬ 
tance, but to set precise and attainable goals for the movement and 
to avert possible provocation. On July 17, 1960 the Tambroni gov¬ 
ernment was forced to step down. The new government pledged 
to observe democratic laws. Even more important, however, were 
the more far-reaching consequences of this defeat of reaction. The 
shift to the right for Italian ruling circles was closed for many 
years. The preservation of democratic rights and institutions and 
the shift in the balance of power towards the working class made 
it possible in the early 60s to launch a successful struggle to extend 
workers’ gains. The ruling Christian Democratic Party had to give 
up co-operation with right-wing forces and to agree to the forma¬ 
tion of a left-of-centre government with socialist participation, 
pledged to a programme of reform. 

Just as tempestuous and even more unexpected for the ruling cir¬ 
cles were the events in late 1960 and early 1961 in Belgium. A gen¬ 
eral strike paralised the country, where the living standards were 
among the highest in Western Europe and where reformists had tra¬ 
ditionally held tight reins within the labour movement. 

Behind the events lay the social consequences of restructuring 
taking place in the Belgian economy under the impact of the scien¬ 
tific and technological revolution and the country’s integration with¬ 
in the Common Market. The crisis in old traditional industries such 
as coal, textiles and iron and steel had led in capitalist anarchic 
conditions to rising unemployment and the decline of entire regions. 
What aggravated the situation was the striving of the ruling class 
to shift onto workers the costs associated with the loss of colonial 
possessions in the Congo. The immediate cause of the strike was 
the introduction into parliament of the so-called loi unique intended 
to increase indirect taxation, freeze wages, raise pensionable age, 
etc. 

The strike was in some degree prepared by the strike movement 
of previous years (the already mentioned Borinage miners’ strike 
in February 1959 and a one-day stoppage in January 1960) and by 





302 


CHAPTER 8 


certain positive shifts in the country’s mass worker organisations 
Under the influence of the FGTB trade unions, the Belgian Socialise 
Party adopted a programme of structural reforms. The left wing- 
strengthened within the socialist movement. Defying the passive 
stand taken by the Party’s and the FGTB’s right-wing leadership 
the socialist left, in some areas acting jointly with Communists, 
effectively organised the general strike. The latter continued for 
more than a month (December 20, 1960 to January 23, 1961) and 
embraced the country’s major centres. Demands were voiced in the 
movement not only to have the loi unique revoked and to force the 
government to resign, but also to get structural reforms implement¬ 
ed. 

The lack of working-class unity combined with the reformist in¬ 
fluence weakened the movement’s effectiveness. Yet despite the stri¬ 
kers’ failure to stop adoption of the loi unique , the protests in the 
winter of 1960-1961 had a great impact. They opened the way for 
a protracted period of socio-political crisis in Belgium. 

The 1960 events in such diverse capitalist countries as Japan, Ita¬ 
ly and Belgium had certain common traits. Above all they had an 
explosive character, they were fast developing, involving within a 
few days and weeks wide masses of people in the struggle (6 mil¬ 
lion in Japan, 2.5 million in Italy, 1 million in Belgium). All of 
that very convincingly rebutted the myths that class contradictions 
were a thing of the past and that social peace was now on the way. 

Another distinguishing feature that united mainly the July events 
in Italy and the great strike in Belgium was that they had far- 
reaching consequences. For Italy, for example, the 60s as distinct 
from the 50s became a time of a certain, though contradictory, shift 
to the left, the proclaiming of a reform programme and the weaken¬ 
ing of anti-communism in internal politics. In Belgium the flare-up 
of fierce class struggle in 1960 and 1961 forced the ruling circles 
to take measures to limit the social consequences of capitalist anar¬ 
chy. 

Both in Italy in Belgium the working class exerted a vigor¬ 
ous effect on the internal political situation and forced the ruling 
class to manoeuvre. 

The further course of events differed in the countries affected by 
the stormy conflicts of 1960. Undoubtedly, the differences in the bal¬ 
ance of forces within the labour movement played no small part 
In Italy Communists enjoyed overwhelming influence in the work¬ 
ing class and in Japan the same holds good for the Socialist Party, 
which despite all its vacillations continued to take a left stand. In 
Belgium, however, the Socialists holding the leading position pursued 
an openly reformist policy. 

Belgium in the first part of the 60s, despite the fairly numerous 












































MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 19G0s 


303 


strikes, had no mass actions comparable to the great strike. The 
continuing acuteness of the situation was apparent mainly in mount¬ 
ing contradictions within the ruling class, in a certain expansion of 
Communist and left-socialist influence and, especially, in that the 
ethnic question, that of self-government of the two ethnically dis¬ 
tinct areas of the country, Wallonia and Flanders, came to the fore. 
In Japan, on the other hand, after 1960, too, the mass struggle of 
the working class remained at a high level. But it was in Italy 
that the greatest measure of success was attained: in 1962 and 1963 
the working class launched an extensive and successful offensive 
in safeguarding its socio-economic interests. 

The normal round of signing new collective agreements acquired 
fundamental importance in Italy in 1962. The formation in Feb¬ 
ruary that year of the first left-of-centre government encouraged the 
workers to advance their demands more energetically. What is more, 
for the first time the workers received wide support for their slo¬ 
gan of extending union rights at workplaces. 

The strike movement was developing in a tense atmosphere and 
became drawn out. It was the 1.2 million engineering workers who 
played the leading role; their actions continued from June 1962 to 
February 1963. For the first time since the mid-50s Italy’s biggest 
concern, FIAT, was hot by a strike. That strike was a baptism of 
fire for the numerous workers who had emigrated from the South 
and agrarian regions. 

The engineering workers’ strike was crowned with considerable 
success. Besides the substantial rise in wages, a shorter working day 
and equal pay for men and women, the workers gained rights for 
unions to have a say in regulating bonuses, piece rates and the skill 
rating system. More than a million workers in other industries fol¬ 
lowed the example of the engineering workers and made similar 
gains that year. 

In France, under the impact of the defeat of 1958, anti-commun¬ 
ist prejudices and reformist illusions shared by part of the work¬ 
ers began steadily to give way to a more sober understanding of 
events in the early 60s, which created the objective basis for fu¬ 
ture concerted actions by the working class. The fight against the 
colonial war in Algeria and the associated outburst of right-wing 
extremist ultra forces played a decisive part in re-establishing work¬ 
ing-class fighting efficiency (and simultaneously the first succeses 
on the way to overcoming the split in its ranks. The firm and 
consistent stand taken by the Communist Party in directing the 
working class’ efforts at defending people’s democratic gains began 
to bear fruit. Already the 11 million-strong strike on April 22, 1961 
protesting at the latest putsch by the ultra-right in Algeria showed 
that the people had resurrected their spontaneous desire for unity. 





304 


CHAPTER 8 


But it was the following year, 1962, when a new upsurge in 
labour movement began. 

On February 7, 1962 the police in Paris broke up a peaceful dem. 
onstration against actions by the OAS ultra-right terrorists, an) j 
8 men were killed. Six days later, on the day of the funeral, a n a , 
tional protest strike was called and a vast demonstration took pl ace 
in Paris in which over a million people participated. 

The government was forced urgently to take steps to put an end 
to the war in Algeria that had split the ruling class and aggravated 
the situation within the nation. Following the February events, talks 
were renewed with the Algerian National Liberation Front that head' 
ed the fight against colonial enslavement. The talks ended in the 
conclusion on March 18 of a peace treaty at Evian (known as the 
Evian Agreements). France now recognised Algeria’s independence. 

The Evian Agreements marked a great victory for France’s demo- 
eratic forces. The colonialist ultra-reactionaries within the country 
had suffered a resounding defeat. The end to the war in Algeria 
established a more propitious situation for the struggle of the 
French working class. 

Already back in the autumn of 1961 (October 26-27 and No¬ 
vember 28) employees of nationalised enterprises were out on strike; 
more than 500,000 people took part in each action. After peace 
in Algeria the strike movement gained momentum: in April, May 
and June brief general strikes by workers in state enterprises took 
place. But they produced extremely limited results, demonstrating 
that under the Fifth Republic the state was a much stronger adver¬ 
sary than any of the largest monopolies. Experience of the initial 
years of the strike struggle in those circumstances revealed that to 
break through the united front of employers and the state it was 
not enough to have separate, even large-scale working-class actions; 
what was needed was the support of the whole working class and 
the widest sections of the public. 

Popular understanding of that had its effect during the miners’ 
strike that began on March 3, 1963. The government had provoked 
the miners into action, reckoning on giving a lesson to the unions 
with the aid of a specially adopted anti-strike decree. The head-on 
clash that began very quickly turned from a strike of a purely in¬ 
dustrial nature into a serious tussle between the working class and 
the personal power regime. The solidarity movement with the mi¬ 
ners that grew to national proportions gave the strikers substantial 
material backing (2 billion old francs) and enabled them to hold 
out for 35 days. The government was forced to retreat. By the agree¬ 
ment made on April 4, miners’ wages were raised (over the fol¬ 
lowing 12 months) by 12.5 per cent. 1 

! L’Humanite, April 4, 1963, p. 4. 

















































mass LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


305 


The miners’ example inspired hundreds of thousands of work- 
ers in the nationalised and private sectors to stand up and fight. In 
1963 the number of days lost to strikes sharply rose—6 million as 
compared with 1.9 million in 1962. 1 

The rise in the mass struggle and the need for consolidated op¬ 
position to the centralised state-monopoly apparatus raised the ques¬ 
tion of re-establishing relations between the major labour organisa¬ 
tions and achieving unity of the left. United action by the country’s 
largest unions was facilitated by the evolution that had been made 
by the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC). Shift¬ 
ing much more leftwards under the influence of the commencing rise 
of the labour movement, this second biggest union centre in the 
country broke its links with the Church in 1964, proclaimed the 
principle of secularity and autonomy from any political party and 
adopted the name Confederation Frangaise Democratique du Travail 
(CFDT). This evolution enabled the CGT in 1965 to initiate suc¬ 
cessful talks on concerted action .The talks ended on January 10, 
1966 with the signing of a joint declaration. Thereby a serious step 
forward was made along the road to re-establishing union joint ac¬ 
tion. 

In the first part of the 60s there commenced a slow, intricate pro¬ 
cess of Communist and Socialist rapprochement. Pre-election pacts 
had been concluded between the two parties in several constituen¬ 
cies prior to the second round of voting in the 1962 parliamentary 
election. Guy Mollet, General Secretary of the Socialist Party, for 
the first time, called upon the electorate to vote in the second round 
for Communists if opposed to a member of the ruling UNR. The 
tactics of joint action, pacts and mutual withdrawal of candidates 
enabled the major opposition parties to strengthen their influence 
within parliament. The Communists now bad 41 seats instead of the 
10 they had had in 1958, while the Socialists now had 67 seats, 
24 more than in the previous parliament. 

The 1962 parliamentary elections were a turning-point both in 
the political evolution of the Socialist Party and in its relations 
with the Communist Party. Switching by that time from backing 
de Gaulle to unequivocal condemnation of the personal power re¬ 
gime, the Socialist Party leadership took account of the election re¬ 
sults and had to admit the need for rapprochement with the Com¬ 
munists. 

The setting up in 1965 of the Federation of the Democratic and 
Socialist Left (FGDS) in which the Socialist Party had a major 
hand was an important step towards consolidating the democratic 
camp. Francois Mitterrand, chairman of the new federation and Iead- 


i L’Usine Nouuelle, No. 17, April 27, 1972, p. 79. 


20—0515 








306 


CHAPTER 8 


er of the small left-of-centre party, the Democratic and Social^ 
Union of Resistance (UDSR), was put nominated candidate in the 
1965 presidential elections. Mitterrand’s programme advocated cam¬ 
paigning against the personal power regime, re-establishing and pro¬ 
moting democracy, and carrying out socio-democratic reforms in 
the workers’ interests. Taking into consideration that Mitterrand’s 
platform was close on many points to the Communist Party posi¬ 
tion, Communists decided to support him for presidency. The im¬ 
portance of united action was confirmed by the fact that even in 
the first round of voting the left opposition candidate was way 
ahead of all of de Gaulle’s rivals, gathering 32 per cent of the vote, 
with 45 per cent in the second round. General de Gaulle was elect¬ 
ed president only in the second round, obtaining 55 per cent of the 
votes (whereas he had obtained 62 per cent in the 1962 referen¬ 
dum) . The backing for Mitterrand from the Communist and Socialist 
parties for the first time in many years showed people the potential 
of the left in changing the country’s politics. 

All the same, the rapprochement of Communists and Socialists 
was neither strong nor complete, it went no further than concerted 
action on specific issues and was not formulated in any manifesto 
pact. 

The rapprochement process of the left was beginning in Finland 
as well. An important turning-point was 1963: the left wing advo¬ 
cating co-operation with Finnish Communists carried the day at the 
Social Democratic Party Congress. Vaino Tanner, a war criminal, 
was replaced as Party Chairman by Rafael Paasio. Changes in the 
Party’s leadership and policy opened up fresh prospects for work¬ 
ing-class unity. The policy of united action long pursued by the 
Communists now began to bear fruit. 

Simultaneously with Italy, France and Japan, there were clear 
signs of the rise in the labour movement in countries under right- 
wing and dictatorial regimes. 

The growth of the strike movement in Greece led to stormy dem¬ 
onstrations in 1963 provoking the fall of the ring-wing govern¬ 
ment of Constantine Karamanlis and its replacement by the Centre 
Union headed by George Papandreou. The influence of left-wing 
forces and their activity sharply mounted. In 1965 Greece witnessed 
as many as 1.5 million strikers. That July, some 300,000 people 
took part in a political strike protesting against the plot by reaction¬ 
aries headed by the royal court that had toppled the Papandreou 
government. 

In Portugal mass protests and demonstratioins by workers oc¬ 
curred in Lisbon and other cities in 1961 and 1962. The 1962 May 
Day demonstrations were the biggest the Salazar fascist dictatorship 
had ever seen. 































MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


207 


Important processes were taking place during the 60s in the 
Spanish labour movement. Despite the harsh anti-worker laws of 
the Franco regime that had put strikes on the same footing as “sub¬ 
versive activities” subject to military tribunals, the first ever strikes 
since the fall of the Republic had begun back in the mid-50s. 
That process could not be stopped either by repression or by ma¬ 
noeuvres by the Franco “vertical” trade unions, whose impotence 
and ineffectiveness became particularly apparent in the course of 
these events. In the late 50s and early 60s the country witnessed 
substantial changes objectively creating a more favourable situation 
for further promotion of the labour movement, its transition to a 
higher qualitative plane. The rise of the strike campaign in 1955 
and 1956, parallel with the mounting student movement, showed 
the more realistically-minded members of the ruling clique that if 
the regime wished to survive it had to adapt itself to the new in¬ 
ternal and external situation. A group of technocrats associated with 
the secular Catholic organisation Opus Dei came into the limelight 
in the government. This relatively liberal (by contrast with its pre¬ 
decessors) group undertook several measures intended to modernise 
the country along industrial lines. 

That accelerated the country’s conversion from an agrarian-in¬ 
dustrial to an industrial-agrarian land and encouraged a rapid 
growth of proletariat. While back in 1940, 4.8 million people had 
been employed in farming and fishing, and only 4.4 million in in¬ 
dustry and the service sphere, by 1950 the figures were respectiv¬ 
ely 5.3 million and 5.5 million, and in 1960 they were 4.7 and 6.5 
million. 1 

The technocrats realised that in the new circumstances it was 
not possible to maintain the old fascist labour legislation, inasmuch 
as it was not flexible enough effectively to control the burgeoning 
labour disputes. Therefore, they made certain concessions to the 
working class (in particular, they adopted a law in 1958 on col¬ 
lective agreements) which the workers used in the new situation 
objectively widening their struggle opportunities. 

From the early 60s there commenced a rapid upsurge in the strike 
movement that reached great sweep in 1962. In the spring of 
that year it not only broke the record for the number of strikers 
(300,000) but also saw an unprecedented spread of strikes through¬ 
out Spain (in 24 of the 50 provinces, including those that had nev¬ 
er had strikes before). Altogether that year there were 425 labour 
actions in which approximately 660,000 people were involved. 

Even though Franco himself announced that there would be no 


1 Amando de Miguel, 40 millones de espanoles 40 aHos despues, Barcelona, 
1976, p. 46. 


20* 






308 


CHAPTER 8 


talks with the strikers, the government finally had to yield. That 
was an exceptionally important moment in the labour movement’s 
development. For the first time under Franco it became aware of 
its strength. Thenceforth, although strikes remained outside the 
law, they became an everyday and common event. According to ob¬ 
viously depressed statistics issued by the vertical unions, in 1967 
there were 402 labour disputes with the participation of 272,964 
workers; in 1968—respectively 236 and 111,435; in 1969—459 and 
174,719; and in 1970—817 disputes with the participation of 
366,146 workers. 1 

The growing proletarian class struggle in Spain was accompanied 
by strenuous searching for a new form of class organisation corres¬ 
ponding to the workers 1 interests and the specific conditions of the 
Franco state. The numerous attempts to resurrect in the under¬ 
ground the old trade union organisations Union General de Traba- 
jadores and the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (which both 
had had a total membership of some 4 million people in the past) 
ended in failure and repression. The Socialists and anarcho-syndi¬ 
calists once at the head of the two organisations were in exile, while 
those staying in the country actually curtailed work among the 
working class, convinced that re-establishment of genuine trade 
unions could only occur after the overthrow of the Franco regime. 

In the presence of that vacuum the first Workers 1 Commissions 
sprang up in the late 50s as a fundamentally new form of proletar¬ 
ian organisation. They arose spontaneously, in the course of strug¬ 
gle that swept aside any sectarianism. The new organisations swift¬ 
ly demonstrated their vitality and effectiveness. They were not un¬ 
duly vulnerable since their tactics resembled those of the guerrilla 
struggle with deep roots in the country’s history. As they constant¬ 
ly underlined in their manifesto documents, they were neither a 
party nor a trade union, not having rules or collecting dues. On the 
one hand, that created additional potential for legal defence in the 
event of prosecution under the authoritarian regime, and on the 
other it attracted many workers to the Workers 1 Commissions 
among whom anarcho-syndicalist feelings were still strong. 

Right from the start the demands of the rising labour movement 
were not so much economic as aimed at safeguarding the right to 
work, at having a social insurance system and guarantees against 
redundancies. That inevitably led to politicisation of the Workers’ 
Commissions. 

During the 1962-1963 class battles, the Commissions sprang up 
everywhere and became the main and effectively only form of pro¬ 
letarian class organisation at that time. Their prestige had become 


1 Cambio-16, January 24-30, 1977, No. 268, p. 27. 






























MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


309 


so great that employers were forced more and more to enter into 
negotiations with them, recognising them as the only representative 
organisations of workers and thereby obviating the official vertical 
unions. A while later, the Commission leaders began to seek forms 
to consolidate their organisations, to establish contacts among the 
Commissions within the framework of an industry, province and 
the whole country. 

Communists acquired considerable influence with the Commis¬ 
sions, realising in practice the notion of combining legal and ille¬ 
gal forms of struggle. The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party 
in January 1960 proclaimed a “national reconciliation” policy which 
helped Communists find a way to make contacts with popular masses 
and establish alliances with members of all political and reli¬ 
gious groups. Left Catholics also played a big part in the Commis¬ 
sions. Socialists and anarcho-syndicalists, however, were effectively 
outside the Commissions by virtue of the sectarian stand taken by 
their leaders. 

The most flexible members of the upper classes, the most inclined 
to compromise, seeing the futility of attempts to cut short strikes 
by former methods, endeavoured to integrate the Commissions in 
the regime’s system and thereby to inject fresh blood into the ver¬ 
tical unions. They sought to divert the workers from politics and 
prevent any further strengthening of left-wing positions within the 
Commissions. The relative toleration shown by the authorities at 
that time made it possible in late 1964 and early 1965 to switch to 
the creation of permanent Workers’ Commissions throughout the 
country (in their initial period, the Commissions used to dissolve 
themselves after a conflict had been resolved). 

Technical workers, engineers and white-collar employees began 
to join manual workers in the Workers’ Commissions, seeing in 
them an effective means of protecting their professional interests. 
During the strike struggle a sense of purpose, organisation and 
co-ordination of action increased. Forms of struggle became more 
varied. The Commissions organised impressive demonstrations, pro¬ 
test meetings and marches that gained the growing support of wide 
sections of the population. They made close contact with the student 
movement, progressive intellectuals and leaders of left-wing par¬ 
ties and organisations. The Church also gave the Commissions grow¬ 
ing support, gradually switching to opposition to the regime and 
trying to demonstrate solidarity with the workers and enlist their 
sympathy for the future. 

The regime was unable to tame the Workers’ Commissions. That 
became particularly obvious during the trade union elections of 
1966 when the Commissions succeeded in getting any of their can¬ 
didates into grass-roots elective bodies (in Asturias and the Basque 




310 


CHAPTER 8 


country they received an average of 83.3 per cent of the vote). 1 
That produced greater repression. In 1967 the Commissions were 
outlawed. But by that time they had gained considerable authority 
in the country and the sympathy of the whole people. It proved 
impossible to do away with them. Despite the arrests, the Commis¬ 
sions continued to function, gaining more strength, producing new 
leaders and sinking deeper roots. 

The labour movement played a major role in undermining the 
foundations of the Franco regime, becoming a force to be reckoned 
with in politics. It thereby paved the way for the Spanish workers 
to go on to an extensive offensive at the head of the democratic 
opposition in the 70s. 

Thus, in Spain, as in Italy, France and Japan, the labour move¬ 
ment in the early 60s very much came to life and made an assault 
on the positions of the ruling class. Its increasing activity took 
place everywhere, although it was more limited and spasmodic in 
other countries. 

DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE LABOUR 
MOVEMENT IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES 

As opposed to the preceding and subsequent periods, the late 50s 
and early 60s were marked by sharp disparities in the development 
of the labour movement in various countries caused to a large ex¬ 
tent by their different historical conditions and traditions. In the 
initial post-war years these peculiarities were in some way dis¬ 
guised by the conditions of post-war reconstruction and the democ¬ 
ratic upsurge associated with the defeat of fascism, common to the 
w r hole of Western Europe. At the end of the 50s and in the first 
half of the 60s the incipient third stage in capitalism’s general cri¬ 
sis had not yet given the internal political situation such a clear¬ 
ly-expressed common denominator. Given the already marked, but 
still in many respects limited and incomplete upsurge in the la¬ 
bour movement, the concrete situation in each country and the 
similarities or differences between them acquired immense signi¬ 
ficance for the course of the struggle as never before. 

We have already mentioned that a group of countries sprinted 
ahead in the sweep and level of the labour movement. Those were 
first and foremost Italy and France and, outside Europe, Japan. 
Then follow Spain and Greece, where labour movement possessed 
only some of the characteristics typical of that group and which 
were marked off to a large extent by other conditions and a differ¬ 
ent nature of the struggle. Finland is listed in the same group. 


1 Julian Ariza, Comisiones obreras, Barcelona, 1976, p. 20. 







































MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950a AND EARLY 1960s 


311 


Britain (up to the end of the 60s), West Germany, the Scandi¬ 
navian and some other countries of Western Europe, the USA, 
Canada, Australia and New Zealand, despite their differences, pos¬ 
sessed several similar features and comprised a second group. Bel¬ 
gium occupied an intermediate position, in so far as there were 
no large-scale actions following the great strike of 1960 and 1961. 

The socio-economic and political conditions in countries with a 
highly active labour movement were by no means identical: suffice 
it to compare France, one of the older capitalist countries, and 
Japan where the capitalist system had only established itself in the 
latter part of the last century. But the common characteristic fea¬ 
ture of all those countries was the particularly acute and direct 
manifestation of deep-going capitalist contradictions. That distin¬ 
guishing feature appeared because of the combination (varying in 
different countries) of such factors as the relative (for Europe) 
weakness of the bourgeoisie, the narrowness of the productive and 
social base on which the bourgeoisie rested, the compounding of 
capitalism’s problems with the vestiges of earlier orders (Italy, 
Spain and Greece), the rapid shifts in social structure owing to 
sharply accelerating economic development (Japan, Italy, Belgium 
and Spain), the long-established anti-capitalist and revolutionary 
traditions of the working class (Italy, Finland and, especially, 
France), the lasting effect of post-war democratic upsurge (Italy, 
France and Japan), the downfall of the old foreign policy of the 
ruling class (Japan and Finland), etc. 

As a result, what was typical of the great bulk of those countries 
was the wide popularity of militant anti-capitalist moods among 
the working class, the active democratic and anti-fascist trends 
among the ordinary people as a whole, the powerful political ac¬ 
tions of the proletariat under democratic slogans, and the great 
scale and organisation of the strike struggle which was a constant 
factor in the domestic socio-political situation. Here popular pres¬ 
sure was marked much more than elsewhere by its protracted, con¬ 
sistent and diverse nature. Most of those countries had mass Com¬ 
munist parties that exerted extensive or even overwhelming in¬ 
fluence on the working class and enjoyed considerable support 
from non-proletarian sections of the working people. Reformist ten¬ 
dencies in the labour movement were normally relatively weaker 
than in other advanced capitalist countries, which often had its 
effect on the positions of Socialist parties and groups. But what 
stood in the way of further growth in the anti-monopoly and dem¬ 
ocratic struggle were the split in the trade union movement and 
the insufficient political unity of the working class. 

The other group of advanced capitalist states—the USA, Britain, 
West Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Scandi- 






312 


CHAPTER 8 


navian countries—was to a much less extent affected by the anti- 
monopoly struggle. In many of them, particularly in the major 
citadel of imperialism, the USA, capitalism was able not only to 
dig in solidly, to accumulate immense wealth, but also to create 
reserves for manoeuvre, to gain ideological hegemony over consid¬ 
erable numbers of workers. All that, along with the lack of serious 
vestiges of pre-capitalist structures burdening the plight of the pop¬ 
ular mass, helped capitalism for a time to defuse the pressure of 
class conflict, partially to damp down acute contradictions of bour¬ 
geois society, and made it particularly difficult for the revolutiona¬ 
ry forces to put up a fight. 

Another factor was the lack or weakness of revolutionary tradi¬ 
tions in those countries. The traditional subtle manoeuvring of the 
ruling class also played its part in Britain and its former domin¬ 
ions. Special conditions took shape in West Germany where the 
brutal repression and brazen demagogy of nazism had put paid to 
the earlier revolutionary tradition, where the hardships of war and 
defeat had for a certain time produced fatigue and passivity among 
the people, while the influence of socialist change in the German 
Democratic Republic had forced the ruling class to make conces¬ 
sions, temporarily fortifying reformist trends in the labour move¬ 
ment. 

Typical of those countries in the late 50s and first part of the 
60s were the domination of trade unionist or social reformist views 
and feelings within the labour movement, and almost everywhere— 
much less than in Italy or Japan—low-level proletarian strike 
activity, predominance of economic struggle and relatively limited 
influence from left-wing forces. Nevertheless, capitalism was una¬ 
ble to escape from its contradictions even in those countries. 

In most of them (save the USA) a critical attitude to capitalism 
had long existed strongly among the working people, even though 
it was marked by reformist inconsistency. By contrast, in the USA 
the working class was on the whole still under the influence of 
bourgeois ideological-political hegemony. It did not appreciate the 
radical opposite nature of its interests to those of capital and had 
no mass workers 1 party. And yet it did know how to fight stub¬ 
bornly for its economic interests, and the everyday strike move¬ 
ment frequently acquired the character of fierce class struggle. 
The ruling circles sought to play down the sweep of that struggle. 
A case in point is the adoption by the US Congress in 1959 of the 
Landrum-Griffin Act which bolstered the intervention by govern¬ 
ment agencies in union affairs, restricted unions’ freedom of action 
and gave employers substantial opportunities for disrupting strikes. 

In the late 50s and first part of the 60s these countries wit¬ 
nessed a certain rise in the strike struggle. True, while Canada from 
































MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


313 


|g58 had had a virtually constant rise in the strike movement, 
m0S t of the others in the group experienced an upsurge only spas¬ 
modically: an expansion of strikers’ ranks in the USA in 1959 and 
1964 -1965, actions in Britain in early 1962 when some 1.5 million 
people took part in two one-day strikes of engineering workers 
against a wage freeze, a short resurgence of West German 
working-class strike activity after a long lull (in 1962 the country 
had 79,000 strikers and lost 451,000 strike man-days, in 1963 it 
had 316,000 strikers, almost exclusively engineering workers, and 
lost 1,846,000 man-days). 1 Brief explosions of the strike movement 
occurred in the Scandinavian countries, but the level of the strike 
struggle here was much lower than in the USA or Britain. What 
told here was both the long-standing rule of social democratic gov¬ 
ernments, the introduction back in the 20s of strict regulation of 
the strike movement and the highly centralised structure of unions 
which hampered local initiative and transferred all conduct of col¬ 
lective negotiations to the national centre. 

Together with occasional intensification of the strike struggle in 
some of the above-mentioned countries there were latent processes 
whose importance for the labour movement was evident later, to¬ 
wards the end of the decade or even in the early 70s. As one 
example, the leftward drift of the unions, in some countries going 
back to the late 50s, was to become a major factor in the rise of 
the labour movement. 

Of particular significance was the shift to the left of the British 
trade unions. It had its effect, in particular, in the growing trade 
union activity in defence of peace. Representatives of many trade 
unions took part in organising actions and conference of peace 
supporters. That was reflected in the official stance of several 
unions. In the summer of 1959 conferences of the General and 
Municipal Workers’ Union, the electricians, chemical workers and 
several others, often in the face of opposition from their leaders, 
adopted resolutions demanding that a future Labour government 
should take unilateral action to halt the manufacture of nuclear 
weapons and ban the use of any such weapon from British territo¬ 
ry. Union conferences in the summer of 1960 took place at a time 
of stubborn campaigning against right-wing forces and reaffirmed 
the predominance of nuclear opponents within the trade union 
movement. 

It was the position of the biggest trade unions that led in 1960 
to victory for the left on the two major issues at the Labour Party 
Conference in Scarborough. The Conference rejected on a majority 
vote the prepared statement by the right-wing leadership that had 


1 Yearbook of Labour Statistics 1964, p. 557. 




•314 


CHAPTER 8 


expressed support for British foreign policy oriented on NATO and 
alliance with the USA. The conference passed a resolution calling 
for renunciation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons and the 
removal of American nuclear bases from British soil, lit further 
resolutely rejected an attempt by Gaitskell to revise the Party’s 
socialist goals (to exclude from the Programme Clause 4 on the 
need for public ownership of the means of production, distribution 
and exchange). 

The start of the 60s was marked by the unions’ dogged struggle 
against the Conservative government’s declared policy to hold back 
wage rises. The government failed to convince the unions to intro¬ 
duce voluntary wage restrictions within the bounds of the incomes 
policy. And the Conservatives ran into more and even stronger op¬ 
position from the unions over the question of British entry to the 
Common Market. Although ideological-political demagogy of reform¬ 
ism (in its Labour variant) within the British labour movement 
continued, the leftward shift of many trade unions and the 
strengthening of their opposition to attempts by the bourgeois state 
to instigate a wage freeze foreshadowed acute class clashes that 
were to break out later. 

Shop-stewards elected by workers directly on the shop floor and 
in factories, docks and building sites played no small role in pro¬ 
moting a militant spirit within the British trade union movement. 
In spite of the repression (the shop-stewards were often among the 
first workers to be sacked from their jobs) and attempts to tame 
the shop-stewards, the shop-steward movement, in which there were 
many Communists, continued to grow strong and expand. They 
stood at the head of many strikes (especially against sackings) and 
their activity compensated for the inert leadership of a number of 
unions. 

The leftward shift of the union movement occurred in other 
countries as well. The left wing of the West German unions, re¬ 
lying on the biggest and most influential organisations, the engi¬ 
neering (some 2 million members), communal service, transport, 
and communications (about a million) and chemical workers 
(over half a million), rejected the idea of capitalism’s transforma¬ 
tion and integration of the working class into the “system”. The 
left sharply criticised authoritarian tendencies and, pointing up the 
neofascist danger, tried to turn the union movement into the main 
bastion of resistance to reaction and militarism. In insisting upon 
the class positions of the unions, the left wing more than once came 
into open conflict both with the right wing of the union leader¬ 
ship and with the Social Democratic Party. The Diisseldorf mani¬ 
festo of the Association of German Trade Unions (DGB) adopted 
in 1963 reflected some of the left wing’s ideas. But the move to the 





























MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


315 


left of West German unions was inconsistent and limited. Even the 
jeft wing of the unions remained anti-communist and went no 
further than reformism in its demands. 

All the same, by contrast with the beginning of the 20th centu- 
r y ) when trade unions, the stronghold of narrow trade unionist and 
conciliatory policy, were usually on the right of the social democ¬ 
ratic movement, in the 60s they were more left than the respective 
Social Democratic parties in many countries of the northern and 
north-western part of Europe. In circumstances where these latter, 
having declared themselves to be “national” parties, refused to act 
as representatives of the working class, reorientating themselves on 
winning over middle strata, defence of workers’ interests was larg¬ 
ely made by the trade unions. That phenomenon was all the more 
important in view of the general growth in importance of trade 
unions in capitalist states. The leftward shift of the British unions 
in view of their close connection with the Labour Party opened up, 
moreover, the prospect of fighting for a change in the policy of the 
Labour leadership. 

In Scandinavian countries and also in Belgium and the Nether¬ 
lands, the first, though still hardly noticeable, signs of the Social 
Democrats having reached the pinnacle of their electoral success 
signalled less room for them to manoeuvre. It is, therefore, not 
surprising that left-wing Socialist parties should appear in Norway, 
Denmark and the Netherlands. A left Socialist opposition 
(Socialist Alliance, Union of Independent Socialists, Socialist Stu¬ 
dent Union), consisting in the main of proponents of socialist ideas 
expelled from the Social Democratic Party of Germany after its 
open shift to the right, formed in West Germany. It launched an 
energetic propaganda campaign, particularly among the young. 

In Canada where the late 50s and the first part of the 60s were 
marked by political instability and rising anti-American feeling, 
the labour movement made the first steps to gaining political inde¬ 
pendence: under strong pressure from below in 1961 trade union 
leaders set up the New Democratic Party (NDP). Its programme 
included a number of demands on behalf of the workers in the so¬ 
cial sphere and was based on the reformist notion of “democratic 
socialism”. 

In Australia the movement in defence of aborigines, pioneered 
by Communists, achieved considerable scope. And Communists 
strengthened their position within the trade union movement. 

All that went to show that the factors marking the beginning of 
the third stage of capitalism’s general crisis were operating in all 
capitalist countries. Yet that did not change the fact that the over¬ 
all situation in the labour movement of the late 50s and first part 
of the 60s in Britain, West Germany, the Scandinavian countries, 




316 


CHAPTER 8 


the USA, Canada and Australia was still far from the stormy Qt) 
surge and active struggle that existed in the first group of count¬ 
ries (Italy, France and Japan). Geographical disparities in the de¬ 
velopment of the labour movement, the lagging behind of several 
of its sections under the influence of reformist ideology combined 
to make international solidarity and co-ordination of working-class 
actions in the various countries a more complicated matter. 

Disparities in labour movement development were also apparent 
in the content and direction of struggle. Its distinguishing feature 
most frequently became either most wide-scale political demands 
(defence of democracy, securing of peace, putting an end to 
foreign policy dependence) or, on the contrary, the most specific, 
most often economic demands of the working class. The fight for 
social and economic change connecting those two orientations re¬ 
ceived far less development. 

Many of the working class’ large-scale demonstrations in the early 
60s were against extreme right-wing reactionary political forces, 
in defence of or to gain democratic rights and institutions (Italy, 
France, Spain, Portugal and Greece) or, more rarely, to gain sub¬ 
stantial changes in foreign policy (France—ending the war in Al¬ 
geria; Britain and West Germany—renunciation of atomic weapons; 
Japan—halting dependence on the USA, annulling the Japanese- 
American Security Treaty). 

Working-class intervention had immense importance for streng¬ 
thening new trends within the international policy of bourgeois 
states. For example, the struggle by the French workers, particularly 
the February 1962 actions, played a paramount part in putting an 
end to the colonial war in Algeria. The electorate’s mood, primarily 
that of the workers, undoubtedly influenced French ruling circles 
in adopting realistic decisions to withdraw from the NATO military 
organisation and to establish friendly relations with the USSR and 
other socialist countries. 

Events in France are far from the only example of working-class 
impact on the government’s foreign policy decisions. In Finland, 
consolidation of the Paasikivi-Kekkonen policy of peace-loving and 
good-neighbourly relations with the Soviet Union cannot be under¬ 
stood without taking account of the dogged struggle in support of 
that policy conducted by Finnish Communists relying on wide sec¬ 
tions of the working class. The fact that after long and patient work 
Communists were able to gain co-operation with the Social Dem¬ 
ocrats, establishing a link between the latter and other progres¬ 
sive forces on questions of foreign policy, considerably fortified 
the social basis of the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line and helped to shore 
up the changes that were taking place in Finnish foreign policy. 

The widespread campaign in the late 50s and early 60s against 
































MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 317 


^ threat of nuclear war (the Aldermaston marches, the peace 
marches in Italy, West Germany and elsewhere, demonstrations 
a gainst the entry of submarines equipped with nuclear missiles into 
Japanese ports, etc.) facilitated a social mood in which internation¬ 
al agreements on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapon, the par¬ 
tial nuclear test ban and subsequent treaties on strategic arms lim¬ 
itation were made possible. 

A new stage in the anti-war struggle of the working class began 
with US aggression in Vietnam. From the mid-60s the movement of 
solidarity with Vietnam in many countries became an important 
factor in mobilising fresh contingents of workers, democratic youth 
and progressive intellectuals for the struggle. Sweden was one cap¬ 
italist country where earlier than elsewhere large segments of the 
population had become involved in the protest movement against 
the US aggression. What mattered here was the democratic tradi¬ 
tion, inherent in the progressive sections of the Swedish people, of 
international solidarity in the fight against fascism and war, as 
well as the long-standing pacifist tradition. A Vietnam solidarity 
movement came into being in the mid-60s in other West European 
countries. 

Popular participation in the peace campaign was, however, un¬ 
even and often confined to sporadic campaigns at times when inter¬ 
national tension was on the rise. 

The direction in which most efforts by the labour movement were 
directed was to safeguard people’s everyday economic interests. None¬ 
theless, that economic struggle was now of a different character. 
While in the circumstances of post-war economic difficulties it was 
a matter of fighting to satisfy the workers’ most elementary material 
needs to secure employment and a reasonable standard of living, 
the acceleration of economic development in the late 50s and early 
60s created more favourable conditions for the struggle by the work¬ 
ing class to improve its situation. The buoyant state of the market 
forced employers to be particularly afraid of losses from strikes, ob¬ 
liged them to be more yielding. Essentially in the new circum¬ 
stances it was now a matter of the workers trying to prevent the 
nionopolies from appropriating all the fruits of economic prosperity. 
The gains already achieved often became a springboard for further 
advance. 

Strikes remained the principal form of economic struggle. The 
USA was in first place in average annual number of strikes, but 
in terms of participants Italy and France headed the list. Japan and 
Belgium also stood out as countries with a high rate of strike ac¬ 
tivity. 

Questions of wages throughout the period were at the centre of 
the strike struggle (particularly where the wage level was lower). 






318 


CHAPTER 8 


Being forced to yield to a certain rise in wages and living standards 
capitalism did what it could, however, to make that dependent on 
the rate of growth of productivity. Incomes policy, therefore, be- 
came a salient element of the state-monopoly policy in many coun¬ 
tries. 

Attempts to reduce the trade unions to appendages of the state- 
monopoly system ran into opposition. In the Netherlands, where 
such attempts had been made back in the 50s, the government’s 
incomes policy suffered defeat. In Italy the pretensions of ruling 
circles in 1963 and 1964 to move in that direction ran up 
against both resolute resistance from the Italian General Confede¬ 
ration of Labour and serious objections from the Catholic unions. In 
the United States workers in many industries gained wage rises that 
surpassed the limit of 3.2 per cent a year set by the Kennedy Ad¬ 
ministration. In France, Japan and other countries workers went on 
strike and in many cases extracted a more substantial rise in wages 
than the government had intended. In Britain, after the coming 
to power of the Labour government in 1964, an accord was reached 
with trade unions on an incomes policy, but in practice workers 
showed no particular wish to have anything to do with it. 

Apart from direct struggle against state-monopoly incomes poli¬ 
cy, workers used other means. There was a marked increase in de¬ 
mands to shorten the working week (which brought in its wake an 
increase in overtime payments), and increases in various fringe ben¬ 
efits and employers’ contributions to various forms of social insur¬ 
ance. Such tactics were linked up with both increasing resistance 
by the state to direct wage rises and with the need to avoid an 
automatic rise in taxation of higher wages, since the welfare bene¬ 
fits were tax-free. 

But the economic demands of the working class in the late 50s 
and early 60s certainly did not end with questions of raising wages. 
The movement to bridge the gap between the rapid economic growth 
and extremely slow social progress frequently took another form as 
well: that was the fight against the most glaring manifestations of 
those disasters caused by economic development under capitalism, 
by modernisation and rationalisation of production through state- 
monopoly measures. Migration leading to arduous social consequences 
(Italy), the emergence of a whole series of impoverished regions 
(Italy, Belgium, Britain and the USA), mass structural unemploy¬ 
ment against the general growth of production (the USA, Italy and 
Belgium)—all provoked vigorous action by the working class. One 
heroic example of that struggle was the strike of 15,000 miners at 
the Miike coal mines in Japan in 1960, called to protest at the sack¬ 
ing of 1,200 workers and continuing for almost 9 months with the 
backing of the whole proletariat. Big strikes in support of the right 




















































MASS LABOUR MOVEMENT. LATE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 


m 


t0 work became an important factor that forced governments on sev- 
era l occasions to draw up special national programmes for main¬ 
taining employment. 

The speed-up at capitalist enterprises, particularly where there 
were piece rates and kindred forms of wages, forced the industrial 
workers in many countries to fight to be transferred to time rates,, 
most frequently monthly payment. That was the direction of work¬ 
ers’ demands to bridge the gap in conditions of payment and status 
which existed between them and white-collar workers. That demand 
began to resound more often in the proletariat’s strike actions. At 
the same time, strikers achieved further levelling up of their socio¬ 
economic terms of employment with those which had previously 
been the privilege of white-collar workers. In a situation of capital¬ 
ist rationalisation, when it was becoming increasingly difficult to 
keep older workers in employment, the demand for a lowering of the 
pensionable age was becoming popular. Insisting on not only an 
agreed but a legislative consolidation of many of these gains, the 
strikers were trying to make them irrevocable. That economic strug¬ 
gle was already acquiring a political significance. 

Another means of politicising the economic struggle was the in¬ 
creasingly energetic advancement of the question of trade union 
rights in a whole number of countries (Italy, France, Belgium, Brit¬ 
ain, the USA and Sweden). Reconstruction of the production appa¬ 
ratus giving employers more opportunity for arbitrary action and 
the further increase in state meddling in the economy (right up to 
incomes policy and state arbitration of labour disputes) brought up 
the issue of trade union control over organisation and conditions of 
work and the overall orientation of technological and structural 
changes in the economy. In practice, that was more commonly ex¬ 
pressed, on the one hand, in the fight for local union branches or 
production committees to have a hand in resolving issues associated 
with the organisation, conditions and payment of work (hiring and 
sacking, wage rates, conveyor speed, bonuses, the skill rating sys¬ 
tem, number of workers at a machine, etc.) and with all the changes 
in those areas and, on the other hand, in the still not very spec¬ 
ific demands for union participation in tackling all the paramount 
socio-economic problems affecting the working class on a nationwide 
basis (planning, pricing policy, social insurance, health service, and 
so on). 

Thus, the working-class’ struggle for everyday vital interests pre¬ 
cipitated demands for socio-economic reforms to curb the power of 
the monopolies, for deep-going democratic change and for an alter¬ 
native anti-monopoly policy. It was the movement for such socio¬ 
economic change that could unite the workers’ economic and polit¬ 
ical actions into a single stream, could become a decisive link in 





320 


CHAPTER 8 


the anti-monopoly struggle. However, that direction of the labour 
movement was least developed in the late 50s and early 60s. 

During the great strike of 1960-1961 in Belgium, its participant 
put forward the demand for structural reforms (for the first time ad, 
vanced by Belgian unions even earlier). But it was too general and 
indefinite and was unable to become an effective alternative to the 
policies of the monopolies and the bourgeois state. In Italy the Com¬ 
munist Party at its 8th and 9th congresses in 1956 and 1960 drew 
up an extensive programme of democratic structural reforms. But 
the novelty of those demands for the ordinary people and the com¬ 
plexity of the political situation had not yet made it possible in the 
first part of the 60s to launch a really mass movement on the basis 
of that programme. 

The slogan of structural reform, of far-reaching socio-political 
transformation, gained popularity also in some other countries. In * 
Japan in this period it became the official slogan of the Socialist 
Party. Members of the left wing of the trade union movement in 
West Germany were talking of the need for serious social reforms. 
But in labour organisations, that remained under the influence of 
social-reformist ideology, the matter was normally limited either to 
advancing vague general slogans or making insubstantial leftward 
adjustments in the state-monopoly policy; the initiative in that is¬ 
sue lay with the ruling class. 

It was only the communist movement that worked consistently 
on the issue of anti-monopoly reform in the late 50s and early 60s. 
The limited influence of Communist parties in a number of coun¬ 
tries put barriers in the way of popularising those ideas among the 
people. But the power and authority of the international commu¬ 
nist movement, the immense attention it paid to specific national 
conditions, its efforts to consolidate the ranks of workers and streng¬ 
then international solidarity, all enhanced its impact on the class 
struggle in the capitalist world and determined the immense im¬ 
portance of the theoretical and practical work of communists for the 
further development of that struggle. 








































Chapter 9 

DEVELOPMENT OF WORKING-CLASS 
SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE 
IN THE LATE 1960s AND THE 1970s 


UPSURGE AND NEW FEATURES 
OF THE MASS STRIKE MOVEMENT 

Since the mid-60s an almost continual rising strike struggle had 
been underway in the advanced capitalist countries; at the end of 
the 60s and during the 70s it reached an unprecedentedly high level. 
In the early part of the 70s the total number of strikes and strikers 
was 1.8 times that in the first part of the 60s, while days lost to 
strikes were double the earlier figure. Upsurge in the strike move¬ 
ment took place in all the major regions of the capitalist world. In 
the latter part of the 70s the aggregate total of strike participants 
in those countries on an average annual calculation surpassed 20 
million for the first time in the post-war period (see Table 6). It 
should be noted that in a statistical analysis of development of the 
strike struggle official data have been used which tend to depress its 
overall scale, insofar as they mainly take account only of “non-polit¬ 
ical” strikes. All the same, the data do enable us clearly to see the 
trends and peculiarities of the strike dynamic. Fuller unofficial 
figures provide only a very general picture and not infrequently are 
in the nature of estimations. 

Many strike actions of the period have no precedent in the history 
of the labour movement in the countries concerned. For example, the 
general strike in May, April and June 1968 in France exceeded the 
most powerful strike movements of the past in terms of participants, 
duration and level of popular militancy. The 20 million-strong strikes 
that involved virtually all the employed population took place in 
Italy for the first time in 1969 and were then repeated in 1973-1974. 
In Japan no strike in the country’s history was equal to that which 
marked the culminating point of the 1974 “spring offensive” when 
some 8 million blue- and white-collar employees simultaneously took 
part in the struggle. In 1976, in Canada and Australia there were 
the first general strikes. The strike struggle reached the zenith of 
its intensity in the mid-70s in Denmark and Greece. In Britain 
strike activity in 1972, 1974 and particularly in 1979, marking a 


21-0515 





Table 6 

General Indicators of the Strike Movement 1 
a = number of strikes; b = number of strikers (thous.) 
c = number of days lost in strikes (thous.) 



1951-1955 

1956- 

1960 

1961- 

1965 

1966- 

1970 

1971- 

1975 

1976 

1977 

1978 

1976- 

1978 

1979 

USA and Canada 

a 

4,745 

3,892 

3,942 

5,647 

6,157 

6,687 

6,309 

5,288 

6,094 

5,830 


b 

2,548 

1,798 

1,468 

2,976 

2,828 

3,991 

2,258 

2,025 

2,758 

2,183 


c 

33,911 

34,097 

28,840 

50,879 

43,686 

49,470 

39,130 

44,315 

44,305 

43,301 

Western Europe 2 

a 

6,011 

6,765 

8,522 

9,400® 

14,362 

16,669 

12,832 

11,275 

13,592 

9.360 4 


b 

4,364 

4,302 

7,079 

10,050® 

12,201 

18,095 

20,804 

15,232 

18,044 

27,205 4 


c 

13,864 

16,308 

21,171 

58,200® 

43,992 

50,099 

51,100 

39,614 

46,938 

82,953 

Japan 

a 

717 

865 

1,311 

1,611 

3,511 

2,720 

1,712 

1,517 

1,983 

1,153 


b 

1,218 

1,214 

1,422 

1,232 

2,406 

1,356 

692 

660 

903 

450 


c 

6,534 

5,440 

4,432 

2,992 

6,692 

3,254 

1,518 

1,358 

2,043 

930 

Australia and 

a 

1,562 

1,139 

1,261 

1,992 

2,852 

2,542 

2,652 

2,688 

2,627 

2,042 s 

New Zealand 

b 

468 

393 

443 

901 

1,411 

2,391 

755 

1,234 

1,460 

1,863 s 


c 

1,255 

683 

740 

1,531 

3,697 

4,287 

2,085 

2,512 

2,961 

3,964 s 

Total 

a 

13,035 

12,661 

15,051 

18,650 

26,882 

28,618 

23,505 

20,768 

24,296 

18,3854,5 


b 

9,108 

7,707 

10,309 

15,159 

18,846 

25,833 

24,509 

19,151 

23,165 

36,701 4 i s 


c 

55,564 

56,523 

47,506 

113,602 

98,067 

107,110 

93,833 

87,799 

96,247 

131,148 s 


1 Average annual figures on the basis of official statistics. 

2 Austria, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, France, West Germany and 
Sweden. 

3 Including a general political strike of almost 10 million workers in France from May to June 19G8. 

* Not including France. 

& Not incIuding/.New Zealand. 

Sources'. International t.abour iiloucment/Moscow, 1972, pp. 154-56 (in Russian); Yearbook of Labour Statistics 1980 ; Main Econo¬ 
mic Indicators, Paris, June 1980. 





















WORKING-CLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


323 


e cord in terms of strikers and days lost to strikes, forced the mass 
^edia to draw a parallel with 1926—the year of the memorable 
general strike. The first general strike in 40 years took place in 
Spain in 1976. And in West Germany during the 70s (particularly 
j n 1971 and 1978) the strike struggle markedly grew by contrast 
with the preceding decade. The US Labour Department recorded the 
largest number of strikes in 1974—6,074—in the country’s history. 
The bourgeois press had complained back in 1970 about “the worst 
epidemic of strikes since just after World War II”. 1 

Not only the figures on numbers of strikes and strikers give an 
idea of the mass nature as the main feature of the strike struggle 
in the 70s. It is evident in the shift from local to industrial and 
national strikes, 2 the more or less long-lasting campaigns (“days” 
and “weeks” of action, “spring offensives”). There was a mounting 
scale of the strike struggle. In taking part in a general industrial 
and especially a national strike, a worker felt himself or herself part 
of a much greater whole than in the case of a strike within the con¬ 
fines of a workshop or a factory. 

It is noteworthy that the mounting strike wave in the late 
60s and early 70s took place in a situation of relatively normal 
capitalist development; it was due to gradually accumulating 
contradictions in capitalist production, aggravated and reinforced 
by scientific and technological progress under state-monopoly 
capitalism. 

The 1974-1975 economic crisis did not affect the basic indicators 
of the strike struggle or lead to its downturn by contrast with the 
past. This new phenomenon, of course, did not mean that the wors¬ 
ening economic situation had ceased to influence the frequency 
and scope of strikes. Specific historical factors causing greater or 
lesser strike activity by workers are numerous and varied. But the 
economic situation is one of the most important. Long observations 
indicate that between its cyclical changes and the dynamic of the 
strike struggle there really is a definite, though by no means 
automatic connection. Changes in the mechanism of that con¬ 
nection are precisely what constitutes new elements which came 
to the fore in the rising strike movement of the late 60s and 
early 70s. 

The 1974-1975 economic crisis and subsequent low economic ac¬ 
tivity were accompanied only in a few countries by a clear-cut fall 
in strike activity. That applied above all to Japan where a change 
in economic circumstances of working-class struggle coincided with 


1 Time, November 9, 1970, p. 75. 

2 In 1974 alone the 6 leading capitalist countries had 20 general strikes 
in which 90 million people took part. 


21* 




324 


CHAPTER 9 


mounting difficulties in the labour and trade union movement. Low 
economic activity left its imprint at certain times in the latter part 
of the 70s on the dynamic of the strike struggle in some other coun¬ 
tries. As a result, the overall indicators (see Table 7) in the period 
1977-1978 were lower than in 1976. In those years too, however, the 
level of strike activity was much higher than in the 50s and the 
first part of the 60s, while a new powerful upsurge in the strike 
wave occurred in 1979. 

Table 7 


Average Annual Number of Strikes (A), 

Their Participants (B) and Days Lost to Strikes (C) 
in the Major Capitalist Countries 


Periods 

A 

B(thous.) 

C(tfious.) 

Periods 

A 

B(thous-) 

C(thous.) 


USA 



Italy 


1944-1958 

4,278 

2,490 

37,000 

1949-1958 

1,610 

2,235 

6,214 

1959-1968 

3,905 

1,749 

30,200 

1959-1968 

3,115 

2,809 

11,134 

1969-1979 

5,291 

2,303 

39,556 

1969-1978 

3,759 

8,937 

22,066 


Britain 



West Germany 


1944-1958 

2,044 

622 

2,810 

1949-1958 


146 

1,005 

1958-1968 

2,344 

1,255 

3,397 

1959-1968 


75 

297 

1969-1979 

2,642 

1,608 

12,290 

1969-1979 

— 

188 

1,082 


France 



Japan 


1946-1958 

1,880 

2,133 

6,212 

1946-1958 

655 

1,150 

5,927 

1959-1967 1 

1,842 

2,076 

2,634 

1959-1968 

1,252 

1,228 

4,150 

1969-1978 

3,479 

1,877 

3,415 

1969-1978 

2,609 

1,665 

4,370 










l No official figures for 1968. 

Source : Yearbook of Labour Statistics for several years. 


So, despite the extremely unpropitious economic situation of the 
middle and latter part of the 70s, the strike movement generally 
maintained its wide sweep. 

There were several reasons for that. One was that with new 
requirements engendered by scientific and technological progress, 
even in a crisis situation there was a shortage of certain types of 
labour power. The growing strength and organisation of the working 
class was of even greater importance. What is more, the ruling cir¬ 
cles often aspired to mollify the consequences of unemployment for 
the workers, fearing an aggravation of the social situation in their 
countries. As a result, the opportunities for a capitalist to use the 
pressure of the mass of unemployed beyond the factory gates as a 


































WORKING-CLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


325 


means of cooling down the militant passions of his own employees 
were contracting. 

The dynamic of wages was also affecting the strike movement in 
a new way. During previous crises prices had fallen and capitalists 
reduced wages. The outbreak of strikes had been largely at two 
points of the economic cycle: entry into the crisis (when there was 
a more or less sharp wage drop) and exit out of depression (when 
the pick up told workers that demands for wage supplements once 
again had real chances of success). Between those points lay a fair¬ 
ly lengthy period of relatively depressed strike activity. During the 
70s, with the conversion of inflation into a constant factor, the 
momentum of the strike struggle in the form of falling wage 
purchasing power was becoming a constant at all phases of the 
cycle. 

Acting together, these two factors in no small measure caused 
the high level of strike activity even in the situation of crisis and 
unemployment. The general consolidation of the position of the work¬ 
ing class in its confrontation with capital was thus reflected in very 
practical matters. The working class in many instances managed to 
repel the opponent’s assault in areas traditional for a time of crisis. 

In the advanced capitalist countries the end of the 60s and the 
duration of the 70s were marked by a singular growth in all three 
major figures for strike activity: the number of strikes, days lost to 
strikes and strike participants. But not one of them provides a full 
and genuine picture. The first index, for example, frequently reflects 
far from all strikes that have taken place, and does not distinguish 
between a strike at a large enterprise and one at a factory with on¬ 
ly a few dozen workers. The number of days lost to strikes may 
change independently of expansion or contraction of the battlefront: 
for example, it increases when employers for whatever reason are 
able to refuse to meet strikers’ demands for a longer period and 
more stubbornly, while they themselves have the power and poten¬ 
tial for a protracted confrontation. The statistically-fixed number of 
strike participants, too, does not always accurately reflect the dy¬ 
namic of a change in the mass nature of the struggle. 

There is sense, therefore, in supplementing the figures shown in 
Table 7 with calculations characterising the degree of involvement 
of hired workers in the struggle (see Table 8) and its persistence 
(see Table 9). 1 A comparison of those figures with those in Table 8 
confirmed the trend to a marked growth in militant activity of 
workers from the late 60s after its slight decline in the period 
following the upsurge of the initial post-war years. 


1 Tables 7-9 embrace only six major capitalist powers, but their share ol 
all strikes in the capitalist world was about 70 per cent. 





326 


CHAPTER 9 


Table 8 


Average Annual Number of Strikers per 10,000 
Hired Workers in the Major Capitalist States 


USA West Germany 


1944-1958 

—512 

1949-1958 

-92 

1959-1968 

-288 

1959-1968 

—39 

1869-1979 

—279 

1969-1979 

—83 

Britain 


Japan 


1946-1958 

—298 

1946-1958 

-783 

1959-1968 

—536 

1959-1968 

—466 

1969-1979 

—687 

1969-1978 

—494 1 

France 


Italy 


1946-1958 - 

■1,788 

1949-1958 

—2,075 

1959-1967 - 

1,461 

1959-1968 

-2,267 

1969-1970 - 

■1,070 

1969-1970 

-6,160 

1 1969-1979 

-458. 




Source: Yearbook of Labour Statistics for several years and national sta¬ 
tistical yearbooks and monthly bulletins for 1980. 


Table 9 


Average Annual Strike Days per Striker 
in the Major Capitalist States 


USA West Germany 


1944-1958 

-14.86 

1949-1958 

—6.88 

1959-1968 

—17.27 

1959-1968 

—3.98 

1969-1979 

—17.35 

1969-1979 

1 

Co 

oo 

Britain 


Japan 


1944-1958 

—4.52 

1946-1958 

—5.15 

1959-1968 

-2.71 

1959-1968 

—3.38 

1969-1979 

—7.99 

1969-1978 

—2.57 

France 


Italy 


1946-1958 

—2.91 

1949-1958 

—2.78 

1959-1967 

—1.27 

1959-1968 

—3.96 

1969-1978 

—1.94 

1969-1979 

—3.03 

Source: Yearbook of Labour Statistics for 

several years. 



Table 8 illustrates the already-mentioned differentiation between 
the major capitalist states into two groups from the viewpoint of 
the breadth of workers’ participation in the strike struggle: the group 
with a relatively high and average level of involvement (Italy, 
France, Japan and Britain) and the group with a relatively low level 
of involvement (West Germany and the USA). Table 9 shows that 
countries with a high level of involvement are marked by lower 


































WORKING-GLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


327 


expenditure of strike time per single strike participant. To some ex¬ 
tent these figures enable us to make judgements about the effec¬ 
tiveness of strikes. 

In comparing the duration of labour disputes in different countries 
v e should bear in mind the style of relations between workers and 
employers that takes shape over many decades. That style depends 
on the socio-historical and political development of each particular 
country, the correlation of class forces within it, the nature of be¬ 
haviour of the ruling class, and the level of awareness and psycholog¬ 
ical peculiarities of the proletariat. Further, the specifics of the 
legal system, the economic as well as political situation and other 
factors also have an effect on the duration of strikes and on the over¬ 
all scale of the strike struggle. To a large extent the level of strike 
activity depends, too, on the political attitude taken by trade union 
leaders. 

Something else has also to be taken into account. Trade unions 
in many countries use particular methods of strike struggle aimed 
at economising on their forces, and that has had some success. In 
such instances only part of those workers who have a stake in the 
conflict’s outcome resort to strike action. The success of such strikes 
depends on the level of militancy of the whole mass of those 
employed: groups of factories not participating in the strike back 
their striking comrades materially and morally and, most important¬ 
ly, by their mobilisation and demonstration of readiness to enter 
the struggle at any moment. 

Contemporary production with its scope and complexity creates 
conditions also for other means of struggle. In the USA autowork¬ 
ers’ locals used a new form of strike in the autumn of 1972—swift 
strikes lasting 1-2 days at a particular factory. They require fewer 
sacrifices from the strikers and give the bosses a salutary shock. The 
press at the time noted that, for example, the halting of the produc¬ 
tion lines in Mansfield, Ohio, for 1-2 days would have disorganised 
production at General Motors plants throughout the country, since 
Mansfield makes parts for all (save two) of the firm’s car makes. 

In Western Europe workers also widely employed the tactics of 
short-term strikes during the 70s. 

As well as diversification of types and forms of strike there is also 
enhanced importance and proportion of marginal semi-strike ac¬ 
tions, such as slowing down the work rate, work to rules, non-co- 
operation with management, and refusal to do overtime. Such meth¬ 
ods are often capable of causing disorganisation of production pro¬ 
cesses very quickly. 

Resort to extra-factory methods of increasing a strike effect has 
also greatly grown. The famous strikes by British miners in 1972 
and 1974 may be cited as eloquent examples. Miners’ pickets operat- 




328 


CHAPTER 9 


ed at great distances, sometimes hundreds of miles from their hom es 
in areas where there were neither mines nor miners’ unions. They 
picketed coal stocks, railway stations and ports, power stations, h rjri 
and steel and chemical plants using coal. The British economy be¬ 
gan to suffocate: thermal and electricity supplies were cut to a 
minimum. The country, as testified to by some newspapers, -was 
brought to its knees, even though at the end of the 1972 strike, f 0r 
example, a fortnight’s supply of coal remained on the stocks. Not 
only the length of mine inactivity, but also the breadth of solidarity 
with the miners, therefore, was a decisive factor in the dispute’s 
outcome. 

No less typical is the extensive use of the boycott. American 
workers frequently resort to that during strikes. The most famous 
post-war instance of the boycott in support of a strike was the 12- 
year (1965-1976) heroic struggle of Californian farm workers, pre¬ 
dominantly Chicanos (migrants from Mexico) for the right to have 
a union. They were able to hold out largely thanks to the very ex¬ 
tensive support from the labour movement and democratic public. 
It was precisely the boycott that was its dominant form. Launched 
all over the country and outside it, the boycott led to a sharp fall 
in sales of produce from enterprises caught up in the strike. 

The boycott supplements other methods of strike struggle also in 
West European countries, particularly in Britain. 

Resort to ways and means capable of securing for strikers maxi¬ 
mum popular support and widest public sympathy is also typical of 
most big strikes in Italy, France, Belgium and West Germany. The 
holding of mass rallies became a traditional form of mobilising such 
support for strikers in Italy, for example, after the “hot autumn” 
of 1969; at times they were attended by up to 100,000-200,000 peo¬ 
ple in various cities. 

The variety of ways and means of strike struggle is partly linked 
to the immense broadening of the social composition of its 
participants. Workers in the services sphere, state and municipal 
employees, teachers and lecturers, doctors, employees in the recrea¬ 
tion industry all began regularly and on a mass basis to resort to 
what had once been a traditionally proletarian weapon of strike, 
along with factory workers. In 1972 and 1973 employees of state 
and municipal agencies in the USA held as many as 254 strikes. 
A similar situation existed elsewhere. Among the largest strikes in 
the 70s were those by 210,000 government employees in Canada in 
1972, 250,000 in Britain in 1973, 500,000 in West Germany in 1974 
and 300,000 in Portugal in 1978. Hundreds of thousands of office 
workers, teachers, medical workers and other white-collar employees 
in public services participated in France, Italy and Japan in national 
actions organised by leading trade union organisations as well as in 




































WORKING-CLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


329 


their own industrial strikes. Strike action by state employees in 
Spain and Greece sharply grew in the latter part of the 70s. 

Strikes by office workers and other white collars were often not 
only on a large scale, but also the most dogged and acute disputes. 
They frequently took place in the face of legal bans and pressure 
from the authorities. A legal ban on strikes in the services sphere 
exists, in particular, in the USA, West Germany and Sweden. The 
fight by teachers in the USA, which flared up with particular in¬ 
tensity in 1972, was accompanied, for example, by hundreds of ar¬ 
rests, police dispersal of pickets and persecution of strikers. The 
many-thousand-strong strikes of doctors and hospital staff in 1974 
and 1975 had no precedent in US history (the situation was particu¬ 
larly strained in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit), and the admin¬ 
istration tried to win by using strike-breakers. The strike of 210,000 
postal workers in Britain from January to March 1971, the first in tbe 
history of the post service, was exceptionally stubborn. No small 
courage and persistence were needed by the 800,000 Japanese state 
employees, teachers, medical workers, journalists and postal workers 
who held one of the most powerful strike “autumn actions” in 1974. 
White-collar workers organised protest strikes in Australia in 1977 
against the new law that gave the authorities the option to sack 
state employees taking part in strikes. For the first time in post-war 
West German history teachers went on strike in 1979. 

Even those given the job of directly safeguarding socio-political 
stability increasingly joined the strike struggle in this period. For 
example, the police began to figure more and more regularly during 
the 70s in the list of strikers. Police strikes occurred in the USA, 
West Germany, Finland, France, Italy and elsewhere. Another ex¬ 
ample were journalists, the personnel whose job it is to serve the ma¬ 
chine of bourgeois propaganda. Instances of strikes in that group 
had occurred in the past, but from the 70s they acquired unprece¬ 
dented scope and frequency. 

Actions by mass contingents of intellectuals (teachers, doctors, 
engineering workers), rank-and-file office workers and personnel 
of the repressive agencies signalled the appearance of cracks in the 
very bloc of social forces serving to prop up state-monopoly capital¬ 
ism. 

The mass involvement in the strike struggle of rank-and-file office 
workers and intellectuals marks important changes in their con¬ 
sciousness. Already the resolve itself to defend their interests by 
means of collective rather than individual protest using the strike 
weapon signifies that these once privileged categories are starting to 
identify themselves with exploited hired labour. The practical experi¬ 
ence of the strike struggle with its typical manifestations—picketing, 
distributing leaflets, street demonstrations, clashes with scabs and the 





330 


CHAPTER 9 


forces of law and order—accelerates and facilitates that process. 

At the same time, participation in the strike struggle, even against 
one and the same adversary, by itself does not lead automatically 
to these groups joining the organised working class. Moreover, they 
not infrequently see the proletarian strike weapon as a means of 
fighting against their own proletarianisation, for re-establishing their 
erstwhile privileges. Several of such strikes bear the imprint of cor¬ 
porative limitation, caste narrowness. Such examples include the 
general strike by top civil servants in Sweden in 1972 or the stri¬ 
kes by Italian customs officers endeavouring to re-establish the old 
corporative privileges. 1 

Attempts to find the adversary’s Achilles 1 heel are part and parcel 
of any strike no matter what its industrial or social affiliation. But 
in the strikes by workers in the services sphere the very concept 
“adversary” takes on a different meaning than in strikes by in¬ 
dustrial workers. Thus, while a strike in the manufacturing or 
extractive industries is a blow directly to the profits, authority and 
competitive capacity of the employers, the burden of a strike in 
transport or public services falls mainly on groups in the popula¬ 
tion who by no means are all capitalists. 

In those circumstances the objective grounds for strikers’ de¬ 
mands, on the one hand, and the attitude of other sections of the 
labour movement and the public as a whole, on the other, play a 
major role. The success or failure of the strike often depends on 
whether they think strike demands in the services sphere just or 
selfish, on whether they perceive the corresponding hardships and 
inconveniences they have to bear as an inevitable evil or as the re¬ 
sult of arbitrary action. Those very ingredients derermine to an even 
greater degree the overall socio-political importance of such strikes. 

For example, the mass strikes by British teachers in 1970 took 
place with the obvious approbation of the wide public which under¬ 
stood the onerous material situation of teachers. As a consequence, 
the teachers not only gained substantial additions to their wages, 
but also acquired completely new social experience, and came closer 
to the labour movement. Soon after the success of the strikes the 
National Union of Teachers joined the TUG. The workers of Italy 
supported demands by the police force for the right to be members 
of a union by a mass solidarity strike in 1977. At the same time 
in several capitalist countries there were in the 60s and 70s strikes 
by doctors, in many cases highly-paid people, and these were regard¬ 
ed by the public as an assault by a privileged elite on the vital in¬ 
terests of ordinary people. 


' L'Unita, March 29, 1973. 










































WORKING-GLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


331 


The organised working class plays a key role in surmounting con¬ 
tradictions and weaknesses in the strike movement by workers in 
the services sphere. By safeguarding the right to strike from attacks 
hy the ruling groups, the working class cannot allow it to be used 
to the detriment of the working people. 

As Luciano Lama, General Secretary of the General Italian Con¬ 
federation of Labour, once wrote in a Unita leader, “The position 
of the union on that issue must be, in our view, exceptionally firm: 
there must be no regulation on the right to strike (since such regu¬ 
lation would be reduced only to limitation). But we must be able 
to prevent the view spreading in the country that there is no de¬ 
fence against strikes that are objectively anti-social, insofar as here 
the idea of restricting trade union right could win over wide sec¬ 
tions of the public and ultimately prevail.” 1 

Many trade unions and the Communist Party in Sweden expressed 
disagreement with the “strike of the privileged” (as the strike by 
top civil servants in 1971 was termed), but made no bones about 
the fact that they opposed the use of coercive means to halt the 
strike. 2 The French working class has invariably come to the aid 
of striking teachers, journalists, administrative and technical em¬ 
ployees, scientific workers (even when left-wing parties and the 
unions have voiced certain reservations about the struggle’s objec¬ 
tives and forms). For many years Japanese workers have regarded 
as a major demand in the “spring offensive” campaigns the return 
of the right to strike to civil servants. American teachers have more 
than once been successful in their stern strike tussles with the 
authorities only thanks to the threat by labour unions to call a gen¬ 
eral strike (as happened, for example, in Philadelphia in 1973 and 
Washington in 1974). 3 

Experience of factory workers teaches all sections of hired labour 
responsibility and careful consideration in selecting the forms, 
means and ploys of struggle. It inspires them to foresee the emer¬ 
gence of contradictions between direct and long-range effects of a 
strike, between the interests of one group of strikers and the ordi¬ 
nary people as a whole. That experience shows that the most reli¬ 
able policy is that linked with the maximum development of ways 
and means that enable the strikers to attract and mobilise behind 
them the widest sections of the public. In a word, that experience 
teaches all sections of the working people the need to use the strike 
for forming the widest possible alliance of working people, and not 
against those interests. In many strike battles of the 70s the speei- 

1 L’Unita, August 31, 1975, p. 1. 

2 Ny dag, March 5-9, 1971 and March 12-16, 1971; The Guardian, March 11, 
1971. 

3 Labor Today, Chicago, Vol. 13, No. 6, June 1974. 




332 


CHAPTER 9 


fic contours of such an alliance were already etched, presenting a 
bold front against the common enemy—state-monopoly capitalism 

Workers began widely to use the strike to avert the danger of 
unemployment. More often than not these are strikes at individual 
enterprises called in response to sackings or to the threat of redun¬ 
dancies. They are particularly typical of Western Europe. When 
they learned of plans by Volkswagen directors to cut down on per¬ 
sonnel, blue- and white-collar workers in the company launched a 
series of warning strikes in the summer of 1975. The decision by 
the Italian monopoly FIAT temporarily to lay off 73,000 workers 
produced a similar response in the winter of 1974: together with the 
car workers the whole of Turin came out on strike, forcing the ad¬ 
ministration to back down. 1 In the crisis such strikes became more 
frequent in practically all capitalist countries, including the USA 
where the resistance of union leaders usually makes it difficult to 
hold such strikes. There were many strikes against sackings at small 
and medium firms in Japan in the winter of 1975-1976. West Ger¬ 
man metal workers, American printers, Italian shipbuilders and Bel¬ 
gian iron and steel workers all defended the right to work in tough 
strike battles in 1978 and 1979. One of the principal motives of the 
powerful strike action by British steel workers in early 1980 was 
opposition to plans by the British Steel Corporation to undertake 
mass redundancies. 

That type of strikes marks a new level of class awareness and 
militancy on the part of the workers: neither during the Great De¬ 
pression of the 30s, nor at times of post-war downturns and declines 
in employment have redundancies created such vigorous and swift 
reaction. The right to work concept has taken hold in the minds of 
the mass of workers. At the same time strikes alone against redun¬ 
dancies are not capable of averting either growing unemployment 
generally or a cut-back in employment at many of those firms where 
they have been held successfully. The militant popular endeavour 
has turned to seeking additional means of exerting an impact on 
the class foe. 

One such means is occupation of the factory. The first examples 
of a strike involving seizure of the enterprise in Western Europe 
date back to the 20s. Individual strikes of that nature also occurred 
after the war. But it was in the early 70s that the working class be¬ 
gan to resort to that form of struggle on a mass basis. The authori¬ 
ties here normally lose both control over production and the right 
to enter the territory of the firm, to have access to the machinery 
and store supplies. That latter cricumstance prevents any dismantl¬ 
ing of equipment and is more often regarded by workers as a good 
reason for resorting to that radical form of struggle. 

1 Rassegna sindacale, Quaderni, No. 31, 1974, p. 222. 


























WORKING-GLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


333 


Objective conditions are emerging for further development of 
that form of struggle, for work-in strikes in which employees con¬ 
tinue working and do so against the wishes of the boss. A work-in 
is essentially not a form of strike—i.e. collective termination of 
work for the purpose of satisfying particular demands. But since 
work-in strikes often grow out of termination of work with seizure 
of the firm (and sometimes, on the contrary, they grow into it) and 
are closely bound up with the strike struggle of workers, they are 
considered here. The securing of the normal operation of a produc¬ 
tive unit, especially when it is a matter of a large modern concern, 
requires in turn one more inroad into the preserve of employers’ 
prerogatives: taking possession of the account books, of economic 
finance information on the state of the firm’s affairs. 

One of the first and justly most celebrated example of that devel¬ 
opment of the struggle against redundancies was the 14 month-long 
work-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) in Scotland from Au¬ 
gust 1971 to September 1972. It was called in response to the own¬ 
ers’ decision to wind up work on the grounds of its lack of pro¬ 
fitability, to sack 6,000 workers and deprive further thousands of 
people at ancillary enterprises of work. The shop-stewards commit¬ 
tee, in which Communists were prominent, took over the running 
of the occupied enterprise. And ships on the building slips contin¬ 
ued to be constructed as well as hulks made for new vessels. The 
work went not simply as normal, but even more successfully: there 
was quite a substantial increase in productivity. Through their or¬ 
ganisation, discipline and courage the shipbuilders showed beyond 
all doubt that the docks were perfectly viable. They exposed the 
objective irrationality of capitalist management. 

The extensive social effect of the struggle became possible prima¬ 
rily because its participants acted as fighters not merely for their 
own livelihoods, but for the vital interests of the British nation 
(Scotland above all). In turn, the atmosphere of solidarity, the na¬ 
tional (and international) response, and the material and moral sup¬ 
port were probably the most important conditions that enabled the 
strikers to hang on until final victory. 

From early 1973 public attention in France centred on the Lip 
watch firm in Besan^on. Events there were reminiscent of the UCS 
story—the firm’s intention to half production and sack the work 
force, occupation of the factory by decision of a committee of dele¬ 
gates, and restarting production by strike participants—but with cer¬ 
tain differences. A Swiss, effectively multinational company, was be¬ 
hind the decision to close down production of watches; opposition 
to the decision, therefore, was decidedly a patriotic act in defence 
of the welfare and prestige of France. The Lip workers’ struggle 
acquired wide socio-political importance and became a symbol of 






334 


CHAPTER 9 


struggle between the organised working class (for a long time nuj. 
ons taking clear-cut class position had set the tone at the factory, 
and Communists enjoyed considerable influence) and the employers 
in cahoots with the government. That determined the acuteness of 
the struggle and the drama of its development. 

A system of management and co-ordination was set up to con¬ 
tinue production; it consisted of numerous workers’ committees on 
various issues—output of parts, watch assembly, repair of equip¬ 
ment, calculation of wages, guarding the buildings, communication 
with the outside world, etc.—and of an action committee elected 
by a general meeting. The system functioned successfully. Groups 
of trade union activists visited the factory from all over the country 
to express solidarity and to study the organisational details of the 
unusual action. 

As during the strike on the Clyde, a union-established solidarity 
fund served as the material support initially. When the government 
blocked bank accounts into which the collected funds flowed, the 
workers organised sales of the watches and used part of the income 
to cover production expenses. The first watch put on the mark¬ 
et was bought by the Mayor of Besamjon. 

One August night in 1973 the authorities secretly despatched to- 
Besangon a large force of gendarmes (as many as 3,000 and the 
mutinous factory was seized in a sudden attack. But it was not pos¬ 
sible to suppress the workers’ action, in particular, because the stri¬ 
kers had made a timely evacuation of the contents of the stores and 
safes. Only in January 1974, after more than 9 months of the fight, 
was it possible to draw up a solution satisfactory to the workers, 
and the Lip occupation came to an end. 

More than 250 occupations of factories by strikers occurred in 
France between January and November 1975. In at least 50 cases 
the battle lasted for several months. In March 1978 alone strikers 
occupied some 200 factories and mills. 

In Britain workers speedily followed the UGS example in more 
than a hundred factories, including such a large and modern firm 
as the Plessey electronics and engineering company in Scotland. 

In Italy from the late 60s dozens of factories were taken over 
by strikers almost constantly. More than 800 enterprises shut down 
by employers were seized by Italian workers in 1976. Although no 
one has made any estimates, cases of occupation in Japan ran into 
large figures; if one is to judge only by those that hit the headlines 
we are talking of dozens of such strikes which normally lasted many 
months. Strikes with the taking over of factories also occurred 
frequently in those years in Belgium, West Germany, Denmark, 
Finland, Switzerland and elsewhere. 

The occupation strike is a blatant assault on the right to private 










































WORKING-GLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60a-70s 


335 


ownership. In the course of such strikes it becomes palpably ob¬ 
vious that no one needs a capitalist boss. The essence of perception 
0 f that fact by workers was caught perfectly by the slogan that 
hung on the main building of the Lip factory: C’est possible. On 
fabrique. On vend. On se paie! (It’s possible. We make. We sell. 
We pay ourselves). 1 It is hardly surprising that strikes of that na¬ 
ture often end in the factories changing from private to state or co¬ 
operative hands. Such strikes thereby make a considerable contri¬ 
bution to the struggle to democratise the economy and social 
order. 

All the same, the work-ins did not attain—and could not possib¬ 
ly have attained—the set goal: to avert redundancies, especially at 
a time of crisis. Therefore, the labour movement tried through test¬ 
ed means of strike struggle and collective bargaining practice to 
find more effective means of resolving the employment problem. 

The USA witnessed, for example, the extensive development of 
strikes with demands of lower pensionable age and the right to 
premature retirement with pension, a cut in work-time and, in par¬ 
ticular, less overtime, a shorter working week of 36 hours and even 
30 hours while maintaining wages as paid for 40 hours. 

Very important were strikes in which the overriding demands 
were consultations with the unions when introducing new (especially 
automated) equipment likely to involve redundancies (for example. 
New York printers in 1974), the establishment of a guaranteed an¬ 
nual wage (the dockers’ strike in the same year) the allocation of 
sufficient federal funds for maintaining and extending employment 
(teachers’ strikes in the 70s). 

Attempts to affect employment through regulated work time were 
a feature in one degree or another of many strike actions beyond 
the USA as well. A typical example was the strikes by West Ger¬ 
man and Belgian iron and steel workers in 1978. The Confederation 
of Shipbuilding and Engineering Union advanced as a major de¬ 
mand shorter working time and less overtime work in 1979 in its 
series of brief strikes involving some 2 million people. 

The nature of present-day unemployment, particularly its age 
and industrial-occupational characteristics (the highest level among 
young people and women and the growing structural disparity be¬ 
tween the demand and supply of labour power) prompts trade uni¬ 
ons and workers’ parties to seek new forms of struggle for employ¬ 
ment. Demands for the job placement of young people, the estab¬ 
lishment and improvement of national vocational guidance systems, 
the training and re-training of the work force are all having an in¬ 
creasingly important place. During the 70s such demands came to 


1 L’Unita, September 7, 1973, p. 7. 






336 


CHAPTER 9 


the forefront in union platforms and the practical actions of French 
workers. They were part of the demands in several strikes in Italy 
particularly the 12 million-strong strike in January and the 18 mill 
lion-strong strike in March 1976. And they have comprised an inte¬ 
gral part of the “spring offensive” programmes in Japan of recent 
years. 

At the end of the 70s the mass actions against unemployment 
went beyond national boundaries. A remarkable international action 
of that kind was the demonstration in defence of jobs that took place 
on the call of the European Trade Union Confederaion on 5 Ap¬ 
ril 1978 in 18 countries of Western Europe. More than 15 million 
people took part in it. In helping to consolidate the ranks of the 
working class in combating unemployment, strike measures of a 
demonstrative nature are, however, insufficient. The labour move¬ 
ment had to master more effective means of affecting employment. 
The experience of the Italian working class is interesting in that 
respect. Throughout the winter of 1973-1974 the workers of such 
concerns as FIAT, Pirelli, IRI, ENI, Snia Viscosa and some others 
presented a demand to the employers to make fresh investment not 
in the highly-developed northern regions replete with industrial 
firms, but in the South with its most acute paucity of jobs. Partic¬ 
ipants in the strikes, supported by the full weight of the trade 
union movement, succeeded in overcoming resistance from the mon¬ 
opolies and the state technocracy: one company after another was 
forced to pledge to expand employment in the South—altogether 
100,000 new jobs. 1 True, the crisis that began shortly afterwards 
interrupted implementation of those pledges, but the struggle left 
a marked imprint upon the labour movement. 

Demands to force capitalists to pursue an employment policy that 
met the workers’ interests were, along with occupations and work- 
ins. the farthest extent of the strike movement in the 70s in the 
fight for the right to work. The most important consequence of the 
advance of leading sections of the labour movement to that point 
was the legitimate rise in level of the addressee: the cutting edge 
of such strike demands was inevitably turned against the state. 

Thus, during the 70s we saw a tendency for the labour move¬ 
ment to shift through a number of intermediate demands of the strike 
struggle for employment to the battle against the ruling-class pol¬ 
icy, the battle for a change in the nature of state intervention in 
the economy. In countries where that tendency was weaker the effec¬ 
tiveness of strikes as a means of safeguarding jobs was less im¬ 
pressive. In the USA, for example, given the very wide scope of 
strikes against redundancies and for extension of employment, the 


1 Rassegna sindacale. No. 51, 1974, p. 203. 









































WORKING-CLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


337 


trade union leadership turned its back not only on attempts to 
channel these popular actions into politics, but also on using all 
the legal means it possessed for putting pressure on Congress where 
the Hawkins-Humphrey Jobs Bill was being debated. The then Pres¬ 
ident of the AFL-CIO, George Meany, made no bones about his 
position: he “slammed the door on any possibility that AFL-CIO 
might demand quick Congressional and Presidential action to start 
a massive jobs program”. 1 

The same tendencies that cause panic and alarm among the rul¬ 
ing elite are apparent in the everyday strike struggle, are growing 
out of, it seems, the most common economic labour disputes. Dur¬ 
ing the 70s those tendencies, according to Western sociologists, led 
to a situation where the strike acquired completely different di¬ 
mensions, was permeated with a spirit of “bucking the system”, be¬ 
came an “expression of counter-policy” whose objective “went far 
beyond economic parameters”. 2 The economic demands of strikers 
under state-monopoly capitalism in many cases turn out to be di¬ 
rected against the bourgeois state, and acquire objectively anti-cap¬ 
italist orientations. New socio-political elements are apparent at 
the same time also in those very numerous strike actions that ad¬ 
vance more traditional demands which do not directly affect the sys¬ 
tem of monopoly domination. That is typical, for example, of strikes 
associated with a more frequent and larger-than-hitherto in¬ 
crease in wages (demands for a 25-40 per cent rise are no longer 
a rarity). Symptomatically, even many moderate union leaders are 
convinced of the need to advance demands to adjust wages to infla¬ 
tion. 

The serious economic setbacks of the early 70s in the capitalist 
countries made certain adjustments to the strike struggle situation, 
to the demands of its participants. 

Before the 1974-1975 crisis, employers rarely resorted to mass 
lockouts. That was due mainly to the relatively high level of de¬ 
mand for labour. In the latter part of the decade and the early 80s, 
given the existence of mass and chronic unemployment, the employ¬ 
ers began widely to use the lockout against strikers, which consid¬ 
erably hampered actions by the latter. The most notorious cases 
of lockout were in 1978, in the iron and steel and the printing in¬ 
dustry in West Germany, and in 1980, in many branches of the 
Swedish economy. 

The employment problem became a central issue for strikers. The 
already-reviewed practice of seizing enterprises moved on and be¬ 
came wider. It was resorted to frequently by shipbuilders, miners, 

1 Daily World, November 13, 1976, p. 5. 

2 G. Sartori, “II potere del lavoro nella societa post-pacificata”, Rivista 
italiana di scienza politica, No. 1, 1973, pp. 40-41. 


22-0515 






338 


CHAPTER 9 


textile workers, print workers and other groups and by employee* 
in many transnational corporations. Along with that, mounting sol¬ 
idarity and mutual assistance among various contingents of the 
working class and the whole working population appeared in many 
instances in the crisis and post-crisis period a distinguishing fea¬ 
ture of the strike struggle accompanying factory occupations. Spe¬ 
cific demands of strikers to renew production were often mingled 
with slogans for overall reduction in unemployment through cut¬ 
ting work time and establishing the priority of employment in the 
state’s investment policy. 

With the onset of the economic crisis, which not only hindered 
the fight for higher wages, but also was accompanied by an unpre¬ 
cedentedly stable and headlong rise in the cost of living, the issue 
of safeguarding wages from inflation also became more urgent for 
the working class. That situation, which remained typical of the 
whole latter half of the 70s and the early 80s, was aggravated by 
the fact that under the guise of austerity policy monopoly capital 
rigorously attacked workers’ socio-economic interests. In many strike 
battles that took place after the onset of economic crisis, the 
working class had to defend the ground it had gained. That related 
not only to wage rates, but to various fringe benefits as well and 
the whole system of social insurance and security. The social dis¬ 
mantling policy to which the ruling class made a sharp turn from 
the mid-70s worsened the opportunities of wide sections of work¬ 
ing people in the area of health, education and culture. Defence 
of social gains was the principal motive of a whole number of strikes 
and other mass actions by blue- and white-collar workers. Ex¬ 
tensive actions against the cutting of budget allocations for social 
needs took place in the latter part of the 70s in Italy, France, Brit¬ 
ain and a whole series of other capitalist countries. 

Mounting resistance by the monopolies to workers’ demands for 
higher wages, coupled with rising inflation and a growth in partial 
unemployment led to a situation where from the mid-70s strikers 
in their demands began to pay more attention to means and sys¬ 
tems capable of automatically compensating for both the rising cost 
of living and in some cases for the loss from forced reductions in 
work-time. Even at the threshold and at the beginning of the crisis, 
with the first symptoms of growing unemployment and inflation, 
the workers of several countries managed to establish or spread 
those systems to numerous groups of working people. In Italy, for 
example, as a result of the 1973-1974 strikes, there was extensive 
development of an “integrated fund”, paying out to workers a large 
part of the wages not received owing to stoppages and reduction in 
working week beyond their control. The slogan of many wild-cat 
strikes in West Germany in 1973 was the introduction of cost-of- 






























WORKING-GLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


339 


jiving wage adjustments; workers at a whole number of factories 
succeeded in getting this implemented. 

The demand for escalator clauses became popular. It became a 
niajor orientation of the strike struggle by American workers and 
was won practically by all the major unions. By the mid-70s the 
wages of some 10 million workers came under the escalator clause 
as opposed to 2 million in the early 60s. 1 Workers in capitalist 
countries had to fight dogged defensive battles against the assaults 
by monopolies trying to demolish the escalator clause. Dutch work¬ 
ers gave a powerful rebuff to such attempts in 1977. Practically all 
branches of the economy in the country became involved in strikes 
and protest demonstrations that forced the ruling class to retreat. 
The escalator clause mechanism is not the only means the workers 
used in the battle to maintain wage purchasing power. In some 
countries the key issue sometimes became the demand to guaran¬ 
tee the bottom limit of wages at a level corresponding to the sub¬ 
sistence minimum for a worker’s family. France and Japan provide 
the most vivid examples of that kind of struggle. At the same time, 
no matter in which of the two ways the movement for a guaranteed 
wage develops, it reflects popular understanding of the people’s so¬ 
cial right. In other words, the result was a deepening of the socio¬ 
political content of the strike platforms. 

Demands that did not fit into the traditional framework of col¬ 
lective bargaining practice were being made with increasing fre¬ 
quency from the late 60s in strikes that took place on the scale of 
enterprises, workshops and smaller divisions. Only at first glance 
did it seem to be the case, as before, of higher wages, shorter work¬ 
ing time and smaller work loads. In the new circumstances these 
demands were changing their form and expanding. For example, 
in many cases workers were not confining themselves to a definite 
sum as a rise, they were after a revision of the very structure of 
wages so as to weaken the effect of that of its variable which plays 
the part of economic stimulus for work intensification, the sweat 
system element. The slogan of strikers often became, for example, 
“Equal rises for all”. Many strikes at big Italian and French firms 
were called under that slogan. 

The clause on shorter working time underwent a similar modifi¬ 
cation. Strikers now included in that notion not only a reduction 
in total work time during the week and longer holidays, but also 
an increase in time for performing work operations, as well as 
breaks, compensation breaks, etc. 

Demands for improving work conditions altered most of all. The 


1 Inflation: Causes, Consequences, Cures, London, 1975, p. 78; Monthly 
Labour Review, Vol. 97, No. 7, July 1974, p. 25. 


22* 





340 


CHAPTER 9 


very concept of work conditions expanded as never before. Strikers 
were demanding an end not simply to traditional manifestations of 
poor conditions (noise, heat, humidity, noxiousness, etc.) but to 
such elements as monotony, repetitiveness of operations or move¬ 
ments, extreme concentration of attention, uncomfortable body pos¬ 
tures, etc. In presenting such demands, workers increasingly re¬ 
jected additional pay offers in exchange for consent to continue work 
in harmful conditions. Such demands as participation of personnel 
representatives in determining composition of production teams and 
work loads and consultations over the introduction of new machin¬ 
ery were also becoming more and more prominent in strike plat¬ 
forms. Workers, especially the younger ones, were insistently press¬ 
ing for liberalisation of factory discipline. 

The shift of emphasis from the consequences of capitalist exploi¬ 
tation to the process itself was the overall orientation of that change 
of demand. In describing this qualitative change, the periodical 
of the General Italian Confederation of Labour wrote of the shift 
of accent from the tariff, “cash-compensatory” problem to variegat¬ 
ed, economic, technological, social and organisational, aspects of 
using labour. 1 The new elements typical of the factory strike de¬ 
mands were the content of work, job organisation and the status 
of the hired worker in the work process. 

Prominent among the enterprises and industries that became in 
the early 70s the arena of tough labour disputes on those issues 
were those with a high proportion of large-scale serial and mass 
conveyor-line production. In the period 1970-1972, virtually no de¬ 
veloped capitalist country avoided large-scale strikes at its motor 
and electrical engineering works where that form of production typ¬ 
ically predominated. In 1972 general attention in the USA and 
beyond its borders was centred on a spontaneous strike in Lords- 
town, Ohio, at the General Motors plant. The plant had most up- 
to-date technology and was planned for super-high work rates. The 
workers protested against the monotony and exhausting intensifica¬ 
tion of their jobs, demanded a slower conveyor speed and shorter 
working week. In essence that was the first big strike during 
which workers pressed for changes in work organisation rather 
than wage emoluments. 

Deep-seated dissatisfaction with their status at work and a de¬ 
sire for cardinal changes in work organisation and its humanisation 
were apparent among the conveyor-belt proletariat in those strikes. 
It is hardly surprising that attempts to map out a specific route to 
a new work organisation were made in strike platforms. For 
example, the list of demands by participants in the 2 month-long 


1 Rassegna sindacale, No. 3, 1971, p. 71. 




































WORKING-CLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


341 


strike of nearly 200,000 FIAT workers in Turin, the workers in Re¬ 
nault factories in France, those at many British factories, Baden 
\Vurtemberg metal workers and American auto workers contained 
such points as replacing the -excessively elementary operations hy 
more meaningful ones requiring longer time, knowledge and skill; 
the introduction of a turnover of jobs done at various sectors of the 
plant, in different operations and on various equipment; the adop¬ 
tion of a skill scale with a small number of rating instead of an 
artificially complicated classification that masked the actual equal¬ 
ity of workers with no skills by a multiplicity of tariff ratings, etc. 

In the initial period, strike platforms carried the demand for 
democratic control in a limited and mainly negative form: they 
referred only to depriving the management of the sole right to de¬ 
termine conditions and organisation of work. Subsequently, as the 
demand spread engulfing a wide variety of skills and social groups, 
it began to gain a deeper content. For example, the demand was 
voiced for the books to be opened up (i. e. to give workers infor¬ 
mation on the company’s state of affairs and its economic policy); 
that demand was made throughout the 70s in some British strikes. 
In 1975 the demand for trade union control over investment and 
employment became a key factor in the platforms of powerful strikes 
in support of new industrial collective agreements in Italy. In 
France occupation strikes at the Lip and Rateau factories, the Bu- 
dat garment-making factory in Toulon and other enterprises were 
normally accompanied by a demand to extend control by workers 
and their organisations to investment policy and the technical pro¬ 
duction planning of the respective companies. 

These demands particularly resounded when such sections of the 
work force as technicians and engineers, research workers, teachers 
and lecturers, health workers and those in the culture industry and 
mass media entered the fight. The concepts of work organisation 
and work content among those types of employees often included 
conditions directly connected with fundamental aspects of opera¬ 
tion of certain public institutions. Thus, in the struggle of the 
American teachers, demands for smaller classes and higher salaries 
in primary schools and ghettos featured highly. While for the 
teachers themselves this was a fight in the traditional area of work¬ 
ing conditions and pay, for the country the problems on which 
the teachers were acting had a much wider socio-political signifi¬ 
cance. In the mid-70s demands for the right to intervene and for 
democratic control over propaganda output were made during strikes 
of journalists, editors and other publishers personnel, printers 
and broadcasting stations staff. 

Where reformist forces predominate in the labour movement, the 
new tendencies objectively taking shape as the class struggle un- 



342 


CHAPTER 9 


folds, run up against strong opposition. In that event, as the expe, 
rience of the late 60s and the 70s shows, the share of wild-cat 
strikes and other actions unsanctioned by the leadership (or aimed 
against the leadership) rises considerably. 

The situation in the US union movement is a good example; 
here the movement of rank-and-file union members opposed to the 
bureaucratic union elite is growing. The most effective form 
of protest used by the rank-and-file here is the wild-cat strikes 
that bourgeoned in the 70s. The record in that respect belongs 
to the miners whose union until recently had been headed 
by reactionary leadership that renounced strikes. The first national 
strike by public employees in the country’s history, that of 
200,000 postal workers in March 1970, was also called without the 
go-ahead and against the will of the union leadership. In Sweden, 
the annual number of participants in unsanctioned strikes in in¬ 
dustry between 1971 and 1977 was much higher than the number 
of “legitimate” ones. 1 

The fight to change work organisation, and, even more so, for 
control of managerial actions by the employers has required more 
flexible, operative forms of collective bargaining capable of embrac¬ 
ing more and more new aspects of labour relations. That is why 
the shift in demands was everywhere being accompanied by increased 
splintering, reduced level of settlements and reduced period of 
action in the corresponding agreements. For example, in Italy up 
to the early 60s the industrial collective agreement, renewed once 
every 3 years by negotiations between the leaders of industrial 
unions and the employers’ confederation, had pride of place in col¬ 
lective agreement practice. With the switch in emphasis of the 
strike struggle to such issues as work organisation, strikes developed 
under the slogan of supplementing the industrial agreements with 
individual contracting—i.e. agreements concluded by union locals 
with individual employers. Such agreements could cover a group of 
enterprises, a single enterprise or even a workshop; their period of 
validity was, normally, short. Quite a flexible system was taking 
shape by which workers could consolidate even in contractual form 
certain fairly specific details of labour relations at the enterprise. 

It is noteworthy that the tendency to reduce the validity period 
of collective agreements in the 70s was occurring also where a 
strike apparently lacked express demands for democratic control. 
That was typical, in particular, of the USA and West Germany. 
In other words, the frequent re-signing of agreements with the ac¬ 
companying act of discussing a wide range of issues at the factory, 
the involvement in discussion of the local union leaders and workers’ 


1 Statistik arsbok for Sverige 1978, Stockholm, 1978, p. 261. 
















































WORKING-GLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


343 


heightened attention in ever new aspects of labour relations were 
all becoming typical of capitalist enterprises. 

At the same time it is clear that the conflict within the bounds 
of the enterprise or a group of enterprises belonging to one com¬ 
pany is as before preferable from the viewpoint of capitalist society 
ag a whole to confrontation on a wider scale. Within a single fac¬ 
tory it is easier to damp down discontent through material conces¬ 
sions, to sow the illusion of the “natural" dependence of wages 
on the level of profits. The risk of splintering the working class, 
locking within individual enterprises, is undoubtedly the reverse 
side of the development of the strike struggle mainly on a factory 
level. 

Slogans of fighting for power sharing and the right to control 
sometimes gave encouragement to anarcho-syndicalist moods and 
to extreme left-wing groups that tended to see these strikes as the 
establishment of “socialism at the plant” and called for the imme¬ 
diate introduction of “self-government”. The only result could be 
isolation of individual sections of workers. Experience acquired by 
the labour movement in the 70s debunked that type of thinking, 
although such ideas remained partly in the activity of the French 
Democratic Confederation of Labour, the Italian Confederation of 
Trade Unions and the British Institute for Workers’ Control, as 
well as a few other less significant groups. 

For all the importance of enhanced struggle at factory level 
things are not confined to that alone. There is an extension of the 
scale and political effect of the strike movement. The very practice 
of struggle more and more clearly demonstrates to workers that 
under state-monopoly capitalism they cannot resolve many acute 
socio-economic problems, let alone resolving political problems, 
through strikes alone against individual capitalist companies (or 
state-capitalist corporations). Expansion of the range of require¬ 
ments and concerns of workers, the spreading of those concerns 
to such issues as price fluctuations, public services, the transport 
situation, children’s institutions and hospitals is altering the scope 
of strike demands into the bargain. 

Behind this shift lies workers’ cultural development, a strength¬ 
ening of their organisation and the successes of world socialism. 
The expansion of the state’s social functions is a no less important 
prerequisite for including new social demands in the range of strike 
demands (whose satisfaction has never hitherto been seen as attain¬ 
able through a strike). Thus, a central motive for the 10 million- 
strong May 1968 strike in France was the demand to revoke gov¬ 
ernment ordinances that had a year earlier altered the social secur¬ 
ity system to workers’ detriment. At the end of the same year and 
beginning of the following year two national strikes in Italy (with 




344 


CHAPTER 9 




12 million and 18 million participants respectively) forced the gov, 
ernmeDt substantially to alter the law on pensions; that was proba¬ 
bly the first occasion in the country’s history when a strike affected 
state social policy. In November 1969 there took place an unprece¬ 
dented 20 million-strong general strike of Italian workers whose 
main slogan was to implement a democratic housing reform. From 
early 1970 a whole series of strikes—both national and regional— 
took place under that slogan as well as in support of the demand to 
reform the taxation system; many millions of Italian workers took 
part in them. 

From late 1972 the battle slogans called for ending the back¬ 
wardness of the South, surmounting the crisis in farming, adopting 
measures on encouraging the economy and expanding employment. 
More than 10 general strikes (with between 7 million and 20 million 
participants) and a number of industrial and regional strikes took 
place in support of those demands in 1973 and 1974. The national 
strike held in the autumn of 1977 involved 2 million farm labour¬ 
ers; that and other actions by agricultural workers in the southern 
provinces pressed for increased farm production and modernisation 
of its technology. 

In the course of that struggle the all-embracing slogan “For a 
New Type of Development” gained increasingly profound and spe¬ 
cific meaning. What this meant was to subordinate the country’s eco¬ 
nomic development and especially the investment and production 
policy of the monopolies to satisfying the public’s social needs and, 
on that basis, to correct the disproportions in the national economy 
(north-south, industry-farming, etc.). With the onset of the crisis, 
defence of national production from being curtailed and, simulta¬ 
neously, its reconstruction in accordance with the prime needs of 
society gained top priority. General strikes involving many millions 
were organised in 1975 and 1976 for these objectives. In the autumn 
of 1976 a campaign was launched for “10 days of struggle” to back 
the demands of the Communist and other left parties for pursuing 
a new, democratic economic policy. 

The picture was more or less the same in France in those years. 
From the end of 1970 there developed a struggle to protect wages 
from depreciation: workers had managed to gain a wage rise in 1968. 
The slogan of the struggle was “A Pension and 1000 Francs”. This 
referred to a reform demanded in the pension system and the rais¬ 
ing of the guaranteed wage minimum to 1000 francs. Two national 
weeks of action (in the form of short-term strikes, protest meetings 
and demonstrations) took place in support of the slogan in 1971, 
with the number of participants being 2.5 and 4 million; these were 
followed by a national strike in June 1972. The campaign had par¬ 
tial success. Subsequently, questions of employment guarantees (in- 






































WORKING-CLASS SOCIO-ECONOMIC STRUGGLE. LATE 60s-70s 


345 


eluding the securing of opportunities for re-training in the case of 
redundant workers) and defence of the rights of young workers 
came to the forefront. Throughout 1973 these demands were thrice 
backed up by national days of action. The struggle mainly in the 
form of national industrial and inter-industrial quick-fire strikes vig¬ 
orously continued in the subsequent years. In the latter part of 
the 70s such actions, aimed largely at protecting employment and 
against rising prices, took place in the iron and steel, textile, chem¬ 
ical, printing, wood-processing, shipbuilding and other industries. 
As a rule, national days of struggle occurred twice a year. 

The growing scope of demands in the workers’ “spring” and 
“autumn offensives” in Japan is noteworthy. On a par with demands 
to increase wages and introduce a 40-hour week, Japanese workers 
from the early 70s put forward demands for a better health service 
and social security system (especially for the aged), environmental 
protection and measures to improve public housing conditions. The 
demand for anti-inflationary measures was the crux of the 1974 
“spring offensive”. In 1975 and 1976 it was spelt out in more detail: 
the strikers were insisting on improved anti-monopoly legislation 
and the foiling of attempts to increase payment for public services. 

As the genuine vanguard of the working class, Communists direct¬ 
ly and through the unions act as energetic participants in the prole¬ 
tariat’s strike battles. In those countries, like Italy and France, 
where Communist parties play a considerable part in the union move¬ 
ment, their political slogans exert a big influence on the nature of 
strikers’ demands. It is in those countries that slogans of a socio¬ 
economic nature which strikers advance often have a political orien¬ 
tation: they are intended for deep-going economic and social reforms 
and serious political changes. In all countries Communists regard 
strikes by workers as a necessary school of class struggle, as an im¬ 
portant stage in workers’ growing class self-awareness. By virtue 
of this they themselves widely take part in mass actions, head many 
of them, and the true tactical calculation and militant spirit that 
they bring to the ranks of strikers are growing. At the same time, 
Communists constantly emphasise the strategic tasks of the labour 
movement and their priority within class struggle, pointing the 
people towards political actions, towards consolidating proletarian 
solidarity on both a national and an international scale. 

Strike actions in support of demands of a directly political nature 
were growing from the late 60s and during the 70s. Continuing the 
internationalist and anti-war traditions of the international prole¬ 
tariat, the workers in several countries took part in protest strikes 
against US aggression in Vietnam. Democratic forces in Spain, 
Greece, Portugal and Chile owe a debt of gratitude to dock workers 
in West European ports who more than once refused to unload ships 





346 


CHAPTER 9 




flying the flags of the reactionary dictatorial regimes. In the spring 
of 1972 the Ruhr working class went on strike and held demonstra¬ 
tions in support of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, demanding urgent rati¬ 
fication of peace treaties with the USSR and other socialist states. 

Political slogans were part and parcel of strike platforms. For 
example, during strikes in the first part of the 70s the demand for 
a general amnesty and democratisation of the regime was often 
made in Spain. In Denmark, the reason for one of the biggest 
strike actions in the country’s post-war history was the Hadsund 
affair: conviction by a bourgeois court of two union activists for 
organising strikes. More than 100,000 people took part in a solidar¬ 
ity strike in August 1973. Each strike organised under political 
slogans serves to confirm the growth in awareness and class ma¬ 
turity of the workers. 

At the same time, the mounting strike movement at the end of 
the 60s and beginning of the 70s showed that a certain type of 
large-scale strike was starting to take shape, preparing and causing 
socio-political crises that the capitalist system had not experienced 
in more peaceful periods of its history. “Red May” in France in 
1968, the “hot autumn” of 1969 in Italy, the tussle with the miners 
and other sections of workers in 1974 in Britain, that was to prove 
so costly for the Conservative government, general strikes in Catalo¬ 
nia in 1972, and the Basque country in Spain in 1974 and 1976 were 
all peaks of everyday class struggle that tower above the average. 
The consequences of such strikes, even in cases where their initial 
slogans were clearly confined to economic demands, had an impor¬ 
tant political significance. Serious changes in the social situation, in 
the balance of class forces, in the attitudes and normal views of mil¬ 
lions of people were their result. They led to such gains that would 
have been impossible to wrench from the ruling class not long 
before. 

For example, the May-June strike of 1968 in France brought in 
its wake not only a big rise in wages and other specific gains in¬ 
scribed in the Grenelle protocol. A national agreement was signed 
in February 1969 o